Man staring at heroin needle

Heroin Addiction: Causes, Signs & Treatment Options

If you are suffering from heroin addiction, you are not alone — more than one million Americans are struggling alongside you. Unfortunately, not everyone who has this disease will seek the help they need to recover.

Addiction disease does not discriminate — this medical condition can and does impact people from all ages, genders, income levels, races and orientations. And once addiction strikes, its effects can manifest across all areas of your life, wreaking havoc on your relationships, job, emotional well-being and physical health.

Know that life does not have to be this way — there is help available to you now. Addiction disease is manageable with medical treatment — your life can grow rich and full again.

How Heroin Affects the Body

Heroin is the deadliest illicit drug in the world, and it is intensely addictive — an addicted brain and body are powerless over this drug. Heroin binds to the brain’s opioid receptors, releasing a tremendous outpouring of the “feel good” chemical dopamine. The brain trains itself to require the reward of a heroin high and craves more of the substance. This is why you feel uncontrollable compulsions to use heroin, despite the pain it brings to your life.

The physical effects of heroin addiction are far-reaching and sometimes irreversible:

  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Heart infections
  • Dangerously slowed breathing
  • Abscesses
  • Collapsed veins
  • Coma
  • Overdose
  • Death

Heroin Withdrawal

Withdrawal from heroin can be so unpleasant that many people opt to quit under medical supervision in heroin detox centers. While detox is often the first step in recovery, lasting sobriety requires more intensive help. Too many times, people with addiction disease undergo detox but not rehab, and quickly realize they cannot control their cravings. This situation puts them at significant risk for a lethal heroin overdose.

What Are the Signs of Heroin Addiction?

If you have a loved one who may be using heroin, we understand your desire to help them. Keep an eye out for these common symptoms and signs of heroin abuse:

  • Paraphernalia – If your loved one if using heroin, you may find syringes, dirty spoons, belts or rubber tubes, small baggies containing a tarry substance or white powder, and metal or glass pipes.
  • Grooming changes – An overall sign of drug abuse is irregular bathing, poor hygiene and a lack of self-care.
  • Clothing choices – Your loved one may choose long sleeves and pants to hide needle marks in their arms and legs. Take note if they wear cold weather clothing when it is not necessary.
  • Scratching – Heroin abuse causes itchiness, so keep an eye out for excessive scratching.
  • Appetite changes – Heroin can suppress appetite, so take note if your loved one seems to be losing weight or does not eat the way they normally do. Nausea and vomiting accompany heroin abuse and may also contribute to weight loss.
  • Concurrent prescription drug abuse – There is a strong connection between heroin addiction and prescription drug abuse. If your loved one is suffering from heroin addiction, it is likely that they also suffer from prescription painkiller addiction. That is because these substances are chemically similar; thus, your loved one’s heroin addiction may drive them to abuse painkillers, too.
  • Personality changes – If your loved one has been lying, stealing, or otherwise behaving abnormally, addiction disease may have taken root. Remember that your loved one is not their disease, and they cannot control their addiction. But they do need professional help for their substance abuse.

How Bad Is Heroin Addiction in Washington State?

Washington is suffering from a heroin epidemic. In 2014, 156 people in King County alone died tragically from heroin overdoses. Sadly, this is the highest number in 20 years.

Hospital emergency rooms can serve to save a person’s life during an overdose, but simply cannot provide the support a person needs to recover. Fortunately, there are top-notch treatment centers in Washington State, one of which is The Recovery Village Ridgefield.

How Heroin Treatment in Washington Can Help

Hiking in the mountains of Washington StateIf you are suffering from heroin addiction, know that there is hope for recovery. Addiction disease may feel insurmountable, but there is always hope. Proper treatment can help you recapture the life heroin stole from you.

At The Recovery Village Ridgefield, we offer caring, expert and holistic drug treatment. Vancouver, WA, and Portland, OR, are both within an hour from our campus, but the distractions of city life are far away from our peaceful spot. Our beautiful campus — nestled into the soothing Cascade Mountains of Washington State — allows you the space to connect with nature and with yourself as you work towards wellness. Your personal treatment team will create an individualized drug rehab plan for you, and together you will work towards accomplishing your personal recovery goals.

You deserve to wake up every day and experience peace, fulfillment and happiness — your life belongs to you, not heroin. Make this the moment you take back your life. Choose recovery. Start by giving us a call.

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  4. “Signs + Symptoms of Heroin Use.” Narconon International, Accessed 6 Dec. 2016.
  5. Thompson, Lynn. “New Task Force to Tackle Heroin Epidemic in Seattle, King County.” The Seattle Times, 1 Mar. 2016,
  6. “What Effects Does Heroin Have on the Body?” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Nov. 2014, Accessed 6 Dec. 2016.