Heroin Addiction


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—CDC—notes drug use is down in the U.S. Except for prescription drugs and heroin. The CDC calls prescription drug abuse in America an epidemic. The demand for prescription drugs has led to a dramatic run-up in price on the street. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, a single 40 milligram tablet of OxyContin sells for $24 to $40. As a result, prescription drug abusers have turned to heroin to get high.

Heroin is cheaper, easier to get and the high lasts roughly as long as the high from OxyContin or other prescription opioid painkillers. Drug abuse is a numbers game. More users, more overdoses. As noted in the CDC’s report, “Drug-poisoning Deaths Involving Heroin: United States, 2000–2013,” fatal heroin overdoses have quadrupled since 2000, with the greatest spike occurring after 2010.


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Opioid addiction

Physicians speak of gateway drugs—drugs which lead users to experiment with stronger substances. The National Institute on Drug Abuse—NIDA—notes, “Nearly half of young people who inject heroin surveyed in three recent studies reported abusing prescription opioids before starting to use heroin.” Prescription painkillers are gateway drugs for heroin. NIDA cites three studies. There are multiple articles, websites and reports confirming the correlation between prescription drug abuse and heroin addiction. Today’s heroin is cheap, available and purer than the heroin of the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Short-term effects of heroin

Heroin is usually injected by syringe. Users tie-off—they use an elastic band to constrict the arm, which causes the veins to swell, making them easier to inject. Heroin can also be smoked. The immediate effects are a rush of euphoria, flushing of the skin, dry mouth and a feeling of heaviness in the limbs. Following the initial rush, users succumb to drowsiness as the drug dissipates. They hover between consciousness and unconsciousness—known as being on the nod. Heroin depresses the central nervous system, which impairs mental cognition. Heroin is an opioid and can cause constipation. Nausea is not uncommon, nor is vomiting.

Long-term effects

Chronic heroin users may develop collapsed veins, infections of the heart lining and valves, abscesses and liver disease. Many develop pulmonary complications, including pneumonia. This is due in part to poor health and because heroin depresses the central nervous system, which affects respiration. Contracting HIV, hepatitis and other blood-borne disease is a constant risk because of contaminated syringes.

Heroin is often cut with other substances to increase its weight. Overdose due to clogged blood vessels feeding the lungs, liver, kidneys and brain is common. Like any addiction, users build up tolerance. They require more to achieve previous highs. This leads to mixing drugs with heroin—also known as acute mixed drug intoxication.


Heroin withdrawal is severe, traumatic and possibly fatal. A chronic user who attempts to quit can expect withdrawal symptoms to occur as early as few hours following his last dose. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Drug craving
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Cold flashes with goose bumps
  • Kicking movements

Stopping heroin should only be done under medical supervision. In real life, going cold turkey is a harrowing experience—much more so than the way it is depicted in movies. No one addicted to heroin should attempt to quit on his or her own.

Sovereign Health of California

Sovereign Health treats drug addiction, alcohol abuse, mental health disorders and co-occurring conditions. Detox is an integral component of drug treatment. Sovereign provides natural assisted detox as a chemical-free alternative to traditional detox. Natural assisted detox consists of natural supplements, minerals and vitamins delivered intravenously and orally. Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD, is the key ingredient in the process. This coenzyme metabolizes in to vitamin B3; it restores brain cells, improves mental clarity and accelerates the healing process. All of which contribute to ease of withdrawal.

Sovereign staff conducts a thorough assessment of every client. We make note of underlying factors which may be fueling the addiction or the mental health condition. At Sovereign, we treat conditions concurrently. We create treatment plans specific to the client’s needs.

You will participate in individual and group therapy. Individual therapy is one-on-one with a compassionate clinician. There are also alternative therapeutic activities offered in our brain wellness program such as equine therapy art, yoga, meditation and exercise.

Treatment includes cognitive assessment. Detection of cognitive impairment determines whether a person needs further evaluation. When you are ready to return home, continuing care is available to provide support and encouragement.

Sovereign Health accepts most major health insurance plans, making treatment affordable. If you would like further information, please call our 24/7 helpline to speak with a member of our team. We will be happy to assist you.