Signs of Heroin Addiction

Signs of Heroin Addiction

Heroin is one of the most highly addictive drugs on the market. The signs and symptoms of addiction are important to notice in loved ones in order to offer support and resources for treatment. Learn about the signs and symptoms of heroin addiction in addition to potential treatment options.


Produced from morphine, heroin is often ‘cut’ with other drugs which makes it less pure, and more addictive. The following signs are markers of potential heroin abuse or addiction:

  • Habitual use
  • Signs of administration including injection sites, snorting or smoking paraphernalia
  • Marks on the body which demonstrate administration of heroin into the body


The following symptoms characterize heroin addiction. In addition to drug seeking behavior, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) states four main characteristics exist in heroin users:

  • Compulsion to use
  • Cravings for drug
  • Loss of control over amount or frequency of use
  • Using heroin in spite of negative consequences


Individuals with heroin addiction experience changes in the brain on a molecular level meaning heroin changes the way the brain operates. Heroin interacts with transmitters associated with pain, pleasure and motor activity. Tolerance builds as a person continually uses heroin over a period of time which can be present in persons with addiction as more heroin is needed to achieve the same high. A degree of physical dependence to heroin is also evidenced by existence of withdrawal symptoms when doses are tapered or cut off. Withdrawal may occur only a few hours after the last dose of heroin was taken. The most common signs of dependence can include the following:

  • Cold flashes
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Goose bumps
  • Leg twitches
  • Muscle or bone pain
  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting

Treatment Options

Heroin addiction is treatable. A variety of options exist for individuals seeking treatment. The effects of treatment are most successful when addiction is spotted and treated efficiently and in a timely manner. No perfect treatment technique exists which can be applied for all persons with addiction. Each person is treated individually based on overall health, length of use and other factors. Heroin addiction is commonly treated with a combination of pharmacological and psychological interventions.

The following medications may be prescribed to assist a person through withdrawal and treatment:

  • Methadone: blocks heroin and minimizes or stops withdrawal symptoms
  • LAAM: also known as levo-alpha-acetyl-methadol
  • Naltrexone: targets cravings or blocks euphoric effect of heroin
  • Buprenorphine

Other treatment options coexist along with medical management of symptoms. Behavioral and psychotherapeutic intervention in either outpatient or inpatient programs help address heroin addiction on an individual basis. Cognitive behavioral therapies seek to address thinking, expectations and behaviors in order to counsel the individual, group or family dynamic through heroin addiction, issues which come up and work to resolve them effectively to maximize recovery.

Heroin addiction is potentially lethal without intervention. If you or your loved one need support to quit using heroin, there is hope. Call us to find out we can support your journey to recovery from heroin addiction with our individualized approach to serving your needs.