Heroin addiction

Heroin addiction has posed a serious issue in the United Kingdom for many years, with no indication that it’s about to become any less entrenched. Recent figures have indicated a significant rise in heroin-related deaths, causing nationwide alarm and desperation for a solution. Heroin addiction is deeply embedded in our society, but is there a way out?

If you have been suffering from uncontrollable urges to take heroin, Recovery Lighthouse can help you break free. Recovery is possible with the support of a safe and effective treatment plan.

Heroin addiction - heroin on spoon

What makes heroin so addictive?

Heroin is a highly potent and dangerous drug, known to be one of the most addictive on the market. Heroin works by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain and nervous system, leading to decreased sensitivity to pain and increased pleasurable reactions. It produces a dopamine overload in the brain’s reward centre, triggering an intense rush of pleasure.

The flooding of dopamine alters the communication between nerve cells, with continued use eventually leading to an inability to experience pleasure from anything other than heroin. Over time, heroin addiction can ­ lead to serious physical changes in the brain as it struggles to regulate its natural chemical levels.

Heroin is also readily available at a low cost in the UK, which makes it all the more appealing, especially to vulnerable people who may turn to the drug in times of hardship. For so many, heroin’s fast high acts as a quick fix to forget about the pain of their reality. In the end, though, heroin addiction only serves to make reality much, much harder.

Am I addicted to heroin?

If you are questioning whether or not you have an addiction to heroin, there are some telltale signs that can help provide clarity. We encourage you to take a few minutes to answer the following questions truthfully and honestly:

  • Have you ever smoked heroin or injected it into your veins?
  • Is there a compulsive urge driving you to use heroin?
  • Do you find yourself needing higher doses of heroin in order to achieve the same desired effects?
  • Do you experience any withdrawal symptoms when not using heroin?
  • Are any of your relationships suffering as a result of your involvement with heroin?
  • Have you become less interested in activities and hobbies that used to be important to you?
  • Has your work performance suffered or have you lost your job as a result of your heroin use?
  • Have you ever tried to stop taking heroin but failed?

If even one of these questions sparks an answer of ‘yes’, it is likely that you may indeed be addicted to heroin. It is vital that you seek the help of a professional who can help diagnose and suggest treatment measures. Ignoring warning signs of heroin addiction can lead to dangerous side effects.

The dangers of heroin

There’s no doubt about it – heroin is one of the most dangerous drugs on our streets. Even one-time use leaves you exposed to an array of physical, mental, and even deadly side effects.

Some of the short-term side effects of heroin include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Warm, flushed skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Feeling of severe itching
  • Heavy extremities
  • Feeling drowsy and sleepy
  • A foggy brain
  • Dipping in and out of consciousness
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Slowed breathing – this can lead to a coma and even brain damage

Heroin addiction - man feeling nauseous

Some of the long-term effects of heroin include:

  • Permanent changes to brain structure
  • Poor decision-making abilities
  • Inability to cope with stress
  • Collapsing of the veins
  • Skin abscesses
  • Increased risk of infections
  • Weakened immune system
  • Stomach pains and constipation
  • Damage to internal organs, including the liver and kidney
  • Long-term hormonal imbalances
  • Problems with menstruation
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Increased risk of lung issues, for example, pneumonia
  • Increased risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and hepatitis C
  • Increased risk of mental health disorders

Overdose is always a very real danger when taking heroin – whether it is your first time or you are an established user. An overdose can be identified by:

  • Slow and difficult breathing
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Weak pulse
  • Blue-coloured nails and lips
  • Stomach spasming
  • Delirium or disorientation
  • Losing consciousness

An overdose is considered a medical emergency and so if you notice any of these signs, it is important to contact emergency services as soon as possible.

Who is most at risk of developing a heroin addiction?

There are a number of ways in which heroin addiction can develop. Many people assume this condition only affects poor or disadvantaged communities but this is not always the case. For example, a doctor may prescribe you opioid painkillers for a legitimate medical purpose, leading to an addiction to those painkillers. You may eventually turn to heroin – a cheaper and easier to aquire opioid – as a substitute for those painkillers.

Heroin addiction can, therefore, impact anyone at any time in their life, but there are certain factors that could place you more at risk. These include:

  • A family history of addiction – genetics can play a huge role in a heroin addiction developing
  • A history of trauma or abuse – trying to forget past hurts can push you into the arms of heroin
  • Suffering from mental health issues – you may turn to heroin as a way to self-medicate your symptoms
  • Living in poverty – heroin helps you to forget your reality for a little while
  • Using substances from a young age – the earlier you begin taking substances, the more likely you are to develop a heroin addiction later in lifev

It is vital to know the risks and be aware of the signs of heroin addiction if you fall into one of these categories.

Am I enabling a loved one’s heroin addiction?

Heroin addiction not only impacts the user themselves but also those closest to them. It can be heartbreaking to watch a loved one struggle with heroin addiction – you may feel helpless, desperate and distressed. But many times family members unknowingly perpetuate drug use by enabling their loved one’s habit.

Some of the signs you are enabling your loved one’s heroin addiction include:

  • Indirectly supporting their heroin use by providing money or shelter
  • Trying to ignore or downplay their heroin use
  • Making excuses, covering up for them or lying on their behalf
  • Putting their needs above your own
  • Avoiding conversations about the topic

Heroin addiction - couple avoiding the problem

While your actions may come from a place of love, it is vital that you become aware of the signs of enabling and prevent them from happening. Instead, focus on:

  • Opening an honest dialogue with your loved one and discuss your concerns
  • Research treatment options
  • Encourage your loved one to get the help they need
  • Remain calm and non-judgemental, and avoid accusations
  • Set healthy boundaries and stick to them
  • Remember to look after your own needs

Your loved one must realise the consequences of their actions, but this doesn’t mean you cannot support them in a healthy way. Knowing you will be there when they are ready to get help can make a big difference. Ultimately, you cannot force someone to start treatment – but by being willing and prepared to offer support when they’re ready, you can make a positive impact in their life.

Can I overcome my heroin addiction?

Conquering a heroin addiction can seem like an insurmountable challenge but with the right treatment plan it’s possible. Fortunately, there are multiple forms of treatment available to those dealing with a heroin addiction. The most effective form of treatment for many people is inpatient rehab. At Recovery Lighthouse, we focus on three key areas: detox, rehab and aftercare.

Detox refers to the initial stage of recovery and overcoming the hurdle of withdrawal symptoms. Our team will be on hand to guide you through safely and effectively, helping you to manage any uncomfortable side effects.

Heroin rehab is the next stage of recovery and looks at the psychological reasons for your heroin use. This is arguably the most important aspect of getting clean and staying clean. You will take part in a range of different therapies which aim to pinpoint unhealthy thought patterns that lead you towards substance abuse, as well as teach you relapse prevention techniques and coping mechanisms to implement once rehab is completed.

The hard work does not stop once you leave our facility – aftercare is essential if you want to remain on track. Recovery Lighthouse offers 1 year of free aftercare to all of our clients and provides weekly therapy sessions designed to keep you focused and accountable.

What’s next?

Despite its incredibly addictive characteristics, there is a way to escape from the harm that heroin brings. With Recovery Lighthouse, you can look forward to a much brighter future. As you progress through treatment, you will notice increased energy levels and clarity of mind, as well as improved physical health as drug-related side effects decline.

Breaking free from the cycle of addiction will allow you to benefit from improved relationships, the ability to restart your career and focus on a healthier version of yourself. Without a doubt, once on the path to recovery from heroin addiction, your life has the potential to be transformed into something more positive and meaningful.