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Heroin Addiction Extended Care Program

Sometimes everything changes in a day. Sometimes everything changes very gradually. The certain thing is that everything will change. Addiction to a drug like heroin is significant and will change a person’s life. For some people, this may look like an immediate addiction and sudden shift in everything they do in their lives. Others may gradually increase how often they use or how much, begin to slip in the job responsibilities, become more distant with family and friends, and so on. Then, one day, they look back and realize everything is different.

It is important to know that this does not need to be the end of the story. It is scary, and it isn’t easy. But it does not need to be the final page of anyone’s story. There is hope for change and recovery. To understand what that might look like, it will help understand the nature of heroin and its abuse, the short- and long-term effects of heroin, the interaction of heroin with other drugs, and the options for treatment.

Heroin Effects and Abuse

Heroin is made from a natural substance: the opium poppy plant. These plants contain a substance within their seed pods from which heroin is made. Heroin may appear either as a white or brown powder or as a black sticky substance called black tar heroin. Heroin can be injected, sniffed, snorted, or smoked, and it is sometimes mixed with crack cocaine, which is known as a “speedball.”

Some common names for heroin include the following:

  • Big H
  • Horse
  • Hell Dust
  • Smack[i]

Addiction to Heroin

Heroin usage has unfortunately been on the rise recently. A 2016 survey indicated that at least 948,000 individuals in the United States reported having used heroin last year. Specifically, adults between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five appear to be driving the numbers up for heroin usage. Surveys from 2006 indicated roughly 90,000 new users of heroin, while the 2016 results show at least 170,000 new users.[ii]

All of this shows a disturbing trend of increased usage. The effects of heroin usage, especially prolonged use, are dangerous and sometimes deadly. Overdose is also a significant problem.

Short-term Effects

One of the primary reasons for using a drug like heroin is to experience the “high” or “rush” that comes with its use, which is a sort of euphoria or pleasurable sensation. Alongside this high are additional side effects, which may include the following:

  • Dry mouth
  • Warm flushing of the skin
  • Heavy feeling in arms and legs
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Severe itching
  • Clouded mental functioning
  • Drifting in and out of consciousness[iii]

Long-term Effects

In some cases, heroin usage may become an addiction and lead to long-term usage. The short-term effects will continue, but additional long-term effects may begin to appear. These effects are not always as easy to notice at first, and it is sometimes difficult to realize they are directly connected to heroin usage. These long-term effects may include the following:

  • Insomnia
  • Collapsed veins (when heroin is used through injections)
  • Damaged tissue inside the nose (when heroin is snorted or sniffed)
  • Infection of the heart lining and valves
  • Abscesses
  • Constipation and stomach cramping
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Lung complications, including pneumonia
  • Mental disorders, including depression and antisocial personality disorder
  • Sexual dysfunction in men
  • Irregular menstrual cycles in women[iv]

Heroin Addiction and Overdose

Heroin, like cocaine, is a highly addictive drug, which adds to its danger. Like many other drugs, repeated usage of heroin will cause the body to develop a tolerance. As the body becomes more tolerant of the drug, more of it is needed to get the same effects as before, such as the sensation of “high” or decreased withdrawal symptoms.[v] Withdrawal symptoms from heroin can include the following:

  • Restlessness
  • Severe muscle and bone pain
  • Sleep problems
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Cold flashes with goosebumps
  • Uncontrollable leg movements
  • Severe heroin cravings[vi]

Because of the withdrawal symptoms and increased tolerance, heroin users will often continue increasing the amount and frequency with which they are using—this increase in usage results in an increase in the chance of overdose. In overdose cases, too much heroin is used, and often individuals will have decreased breathing or stop breathing completely. When breathing slows or stops, oxygen is prevented from reaching the brain, leading to damaging effects, including comas and permanent brain damage.[vii]

Studies from 2018 have shown that nearly 15,000 people in the United States died from a drug overdose involving heroin. While this represents a 4% decrease in deaths from 2017, it is also seven times higher than the heroin-involved overdose deaths in 1999.[viii]

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Because of the significant difficulties in withdrawal from heroin, proper medical and professional treatment must be sought. A treatment facility will provide distance from harmful influences, protection from the temptation to use, and treatment for managing the withdrawal symptoms. Some common medications for treating withdrawal include the following:

  • Buprenorphine
  • Extended-release naltrexone
  • Lofexidine[ix]

Beyond managing withdrawal symptoms, a good treatment facility will also provide counseling and therapies to help in overcoming the addiction. Simply moving beyond the withdrawal symptoms does not guarantee recovery. Recovery requires consistent therapy and treatment over a period of time so that individuals can learn the habits and skills needed to move beyond their addiction. Finally, a good treatment facility will help in preventing relapse.[x]

At Cycles of Change Recovery, we want to come alongside those struggling with heroin addiction and withdrawal symptoms to help transition into recovery. We can offer 24/7 on-site medical help and supervision, counseling, and consistent care to facilitate the process of healing. Our facility can help in moving past withdrawal, recovering from addiction, and avoiding relapse. Please review our various programs[xi] to see which one meets the situation or need. It is also recommended to review our accreditation,[xii] staff,[xiii] and facility,[xiv] so that you can be confident Cycles of Change Recovery is the right path for you or your loved one.


  1. [i] NIDA. “Heroin DrugFacts.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, November 21, 2019. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin.
  2. [ii] NIDA. “What is the scope of heroin use in the United States?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, May 29, 2020. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/scope-heroin-use-in-united-states
  3. [iii] NIDA. “Heroin DrugFacts.”
  4. [iv] Ibid.
  5. [v] Ibid.
  6. [vi] Ibid.
  7. [vii] Ibid.
  8. [viii] CDC. “Heroin Overdose Data.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 19, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/heroin.html.
  9. [ix] NIDA. “Treatment and Recovery.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, July 10, 2020. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery
  10. [x] Ibid.
  11. [xi] https://cyclesofchangerecovery.com/programs/.
  12. [xii] https://cyclesofchangerecovery.com/about/accreditation/.
  13. [xiii] https://cyclesofchangerecovery.com/about/staff/.
  14. [xiv] https://cyclesofchangerecovery.com/about/palmdale/.

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