Heroin Abuse, Addiction, and Treatment in Orange County, California

In 2020, more than 902,000 people in the United States used heroin, an opioid drug that has played a massive role in the ongoing opioid crisis. An addiction to heroin can develop quickly, sometimes after only one or two uses, and people who get addicted have an extremely challenging time getting sober.

Heroin addiction is characterized by constant drug cravings, physical dependence and flu-like withdrawal symptoms, and compulsive, dangerous patterns of heroin use. Unfortunately, many people who suffer from heroin addiction are reluctant to seek help or get sober on their own due to the painful withdrawal symptoms the drug causes.

At Sheer Recovery, we offer medically-supervised detox and comprehensive addiction treatment that can help individuals detox comfortably and achieve long-term sobriety. If you or a loved one are struggling with heroin addiction, contact us today to learn about your treatment options.

What is Heroin?

Heroin is a powerful opioid drug that is made from morphine. Morphine is a naturally-occurring opioid derived from Opium, a narcotic substance found in the seed pod of opium poppy plants. Opium poppy plants are native to Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Colombia, but heroin abuse is a major problem in the United States.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), about 691,000 (0.2% of the population) had a heroin use disorder in 2020.

Heroin comes in the form of a black sticky substance (black tar heroin) or a chalky brown or white powder. The drug can be snorted, smoked, or injected.

Heroin is a fast-acting drug that binds to opioid receptors and affects the way in which people experience pain and pleasure. It also slows down heart rate, sleeping, and breathing.

powdered heroin and syringe

Side Effects of Heroin Abuse

Shortly after ingesting heroin, users may feel a “rush” of euphoria, pleasure, or warmth. Other short-term side effects of using heroin include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Itching
  • Constricted pupils
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Warm flushing of the skin
  • Heavy feeling in the arms and legs
  • Clouded mental functioning
  • “Nodding out” or going back and forth between being conscious and semiconscious

Long-term heroin abuse can be harmful to both mental and physical health. Potential long-term effects include:

  • Collapsed veins (for people who inject heroin)
  • Damaged nose and nasal cavity (for people who snort the drug)
  • Memory loss
  • Skin abscesses
  • Insomnia
  • Constipation
  • Stomach cramping
  • Infection of the heart lining and valves
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Lung infections like pneumonia
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Increased risk of HIV/AIDs and Hepatitis

There is no safe way to use heroin, so the only way to avoid these long-term complications is to seek treatment.

Heroin Overdose Symptoms

People who don’t have an opioid tolerance may overdose after using small amounts of heroin, however, even people who struggle with heroin addiction are at risk of overdose. The NIDA reports that approximately 13,165 people died as a result of a heroin overdose in 2020.

Symptoms of heroin overdose include:

  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Confusion
  • Nodding in and out of consciousness
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Pale or blue-colored skin
  • Clammy skin
  • Blue tint to the lips or fingertips
  • Shallow breathing
  • Gurgling noises

If someone is overdosing on heroin, 911 should be called immediately and naloxone (Narcan) should be administered if it is available. Naloxone can reverse the effects of opioid overdose and restore breathing long enough for people to get medical attention. Without prompt treatment, heroin overdose can be deadly.

Bystanders should continue talking to the person suffering an overdose and lay the person on their side so they don’t choke or aspirate. Do not leave the person’s side until emergency medical services arrive.

Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

Heroin is both physically and mentally addictive, so people who are addicted to it will experience cravings for the drug as well as withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop taking it. However, there are also behavioral signs associated with heroin addiction, such as:

  • Engaging in risky or illegal behaviors
  • Lying to friends and family
  • Developing a tolerance so higher doses are required to produce the same effects
  • Track marks on the arms or legs from IV heroin use
  • Continuing to use heroin despite problems it may be causing at home, school, or work
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Spending excess time obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of heroin
  • Difficulty maintaining personal health and hygiene
  • Financial difficulties

Heroin Withdrawal and Detox Treatment

When someone tries to get sober, the first obstacle they must overcome is withdrawal. Those who are addicted to heroin and suddenly stop using the drug may have mild to severe symptoms of withdrawal. Heroin withdrawal is often described as being similar to the seasonal flu because it includes symptoms like:

  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Yawning
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety and anticipation
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Cold chills
  • Goosebumps
  • Uncontrollable leg movements
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Agitation
  • Drug cravings

Symptoms typically begin 6-12 hours after the last dose and can last for up to a week. While heroin withdrawal typically is not life-threatening, it is often so uncomfortable that people return to using heroin rather than endure the symptoms of withdrawal. As a result, the best way to detox from heroin is to do so at a licensed medical facility.

Drug and alcohol detox centers in California can prescribe medications, facilitate holistic therapies, and offer 24-hour support and supervision, allowing clients to detox comfortably and safely. Medical detox eliminates the risks associated with detoxification and can improve treatment outcomes.

Two medications that can alleviate symptoms of heroin withdrawal are methadone and buprenorphine. Both of these drugs are opioids that were designed to help people stop taking highly addictive opioids like heroin and morphine. By taking these drugs during detox, clients can gradually wean themselves off of opioids until their body no longer relies on them to function.

The FDA has also approved lofexidine, a non-opioid medication that can reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms.

detox and treatment for heroin addiction

Treatment Options for Heroin Abuse and Addiction

Medications can alleviate symptoms of withdrawal, but they can’t cure addiction. Heroin addiction often results from an underlying mental health condition or unresolved trauma, so it’s important to get to the root cause using behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management (CM) can help individuals identify and modify problematic behaviors and incentivize sobriety.

Clients have a variety of treatment options to choose from, including:

  • Residential inpatient rehab
  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP)
  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP)

Individuals with severe addictions and/or co-occurring mental health conditions can benefit from higher levels of care where intensive support and integrated treatment are offered.

At Sheer Recovery, we use a 6-patient model where only six clients are treated at a time, allowing each person to receive individually-tailored treatment that focuses on their unique needs. Following the completion of treatment, we work closely with our clients to help them be successful in aftercare and early sobriety.

Find Help for Heroin Abuse and Addiction Today

Sheer Recovery isn’t your average California heroin rehab. We stand out from regular treatment centers by offering safe, private, and comfortable residential opioid treatment. Between our private and semi-private rooms, calming ocean views, and amenities to support your recovery, we guarantee you will feel at home and secure at our facility. Meanwhile, our licensed therapists will guide you through group and individual therapy sessions to treat the root cause of your addiction, help you learn healthy coping skills, and prepare you to return to your daily routine.

Don’t wait another minute to get the help you deserve. Call now to speak with a qualified admissions coordinator.

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