It is important to recognize signs and symptoms of heroin addiction


Many mental health disorders co-occur with addiction. These disorders can include:

  •     Depressive disorders
  •     Bipolar disorder
  •     Anxiety disorders
  •     Antisocial personality disorder
  •     Borderline personality disorder
  •     Conduct disorders
  •     Intermittent explosive disorder


The lifetime prevalence of heroin addiction for individuals in the United States ages 12 and older is 1.6%, or 4.2 million Americans. Individuals between the ages of 12-17 have a prevalence of heroin abuse of approximately 0.3%, while individuals ages 18-25 have a much higher percentage at 1.7%. The highest age group likely to abuse heroin are ages 26 and older, at 1.8%. Estimates are that 23% of individuals who use heroin later become dependent upon it.



Short-Term Symptoms

The short-term symptoms of heroin abuse appear quickly after a single dose and dissipate after a few hours. The short-term effects of heroin abuse include:

  •     Rush, or feelings of euphoria
  •     Flushing of the skin
  •     Dry mouth
  •     Heavy extremities
  •     Wakeful/drowsiness cycle called “on the nod”
  •     Cloudy mental functioning
  •     Slurred and slowed speech
  •     Slowed movements
  •     Nausea and vomiting
  •     Droopy eyes
  •     Impaired night vision
  •     Constriction of the pupils
  •     Constipation


Long-Term Symptoms

The long-term symptoms of heroin appear after a person has repeatedly used heroin for a period of time and include:

  •     Tolerance
  •     Withdrawal symptoms
  •     Addiction
  •     Unsuccessful attempts to stop or curb heroin usage
  •     Spontaneous miscarriages
  •     Drug paraphilia
  •     Needle marks
  •     Chronically runny nose
  •     Weight loss
  •     Cravings
  •     Collapsed veins
  •     Abscesses
  •     Pericarditis
  •     Cellulitis
  •     Liver disease
  •     Pneumonia
  •     Respiratory depression
  •     Damage to major organ systems
  •     Death of areas of major systems


Effects of Heroin Addiction

Heroin and the substances that it is cut with destroys the body with repeated, prolonged use. Effects of heroin addiction include:

  •     Homelessness
  •     Poverty
  •     Legal problems
  •     Interpersonal relationship challenges
  •     Unemployment
  •     Collapsed veins
  •     Infections of the heart lining and valves
  •     Liver disease
  •     Lung disease
  •     Hepatitis
  •     HIV/AIDS


Withdrawal Effects

After an individual develops physical dependence and addiction to heroin, attempts to cut down or quit smack cold turkey can cause major withdrawal effects. For regular heroin abusers these effects can occur within a few hours of the last dose, usually peak between 48-72 hours after the last dose and subside after a week or so. These include:

  •     Drug cravings
  •     Restlessness
  •     Bone and muscle pain
  •     Insomnia
  •     Diarrhea and vomiting
  •     Cold flashes
  •     Goosebumps
  •     Kicking movements (“kicking the habit”)
  •     Death