Heroin Addiction Causes & Effects

Learn About Heroin Abuse

Learn About Heroin Abuse & Treatment at Life Healing Center

Highly addictive and carrying the potential to cause severe devastation to every area of a person’s life, heroin is a drug that is both illegal and extremely dangerous. Abusers of this substance are known to inject or smoke it and claim that it induces a high that creates feelings of elation and blocks the ability to feel pain. Black and sticky in its consistency, or found as a powder that is dark brown to white, heroin can quickly trap a person in a vicious cycle of ongoing substance abuse that can ultimately cause an individual’s overall well-being to quickly deteriorate.

Substance abuse treatment is the most effective way to combat a chemical dependency problem of this kind, as the withdrawal symptoms that take place when a person stops using this drug can be enough to trigger an individual to continue using heroin. Failing to seek treatment can result in declining physical and mental health, demise of relationships with others, job loss, and interaction with law enforcement, to name a few. What is important to know, however, is that there are many treatment options in existence that can help those addicted to heroin safely withdraw, gain the skills needed to become and remain sober, and ultimately achieve lives that are no longer dictated by an addiction to this hazardous drug.


Heroin Abuse Statistics

Despite raised awareness pertaining to the dangers of heroin, the abuse of this substance by men and women in the United States continues to be a problem. Since the early 2000s, the percentage of deaths involving heroin has increased by 45%. Furthermore, among individuals who have sought treatment for a chemical dependency problem, 20% of those men and women were grappling with an addiction to heroin.

Causes & Risks

Causes and Risk Factors for Heroin Abuse

In order to understand how a person comes to abuse heroin, it is important to consider several potential causes and risk factors. While not every abuser of heroin will report the same reasons for turning to the use of this substance, the following are among the most common causes cited by heroin abusers, as well as risk factors that researchers believe may contribute to the eventual abuse of heroin:

Genetic: Addiction specialists and mental health professionals alike agree that a person’s genetic history can make an individual more susceptible to abusing heroin. Through various studies, it was discovered that substance abuse problems and addiction are often found among people who share genes. This means that if a person has a close relative, such as a parent or sibling, who has battled an addiction to drugs, such as heroin, there is a greater risk for that individual to also abuse substances because of the strong influence of genetics.

Environmental: Aside from the influence of one’s genetics when there is a family history of substance abuse, the environment in which one was raised or currently resides can greatly impact whether or not someone will abuse this lethal substance. If an individual is exposed to substance abuse or lives in an area in which heroin is easily accessible, there is an increased risk for that person to abuse heroin at some point. Additionally, certain experiences can render a person more vulnerable to heroin abuse. Past trauma such as abuse or neglect, being the victim of a crime, or enduring another type of trauma, can cause a person to abuse heroin if that individual does not posses healthy skills for coping with said trauma or if that person lacks a strong support network.

Risk Factors:

  • Easy access to heroin
  • Lack of support system
  • Inadequate coping skills
  • Low self-worth
  • Family history of substance use or addiction
  • Family history of mental health condition(s)
  • Being male
  • Personal history of mental health condition(s)
  • Low self-esteem
  • Experiencing high stress levels
  • Exposure to trauma

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Abuse

Depending on the severity of a person’s addiction to heroin, the signs of this type of drug abuse may or may not be apparent to close friends or loved ones. If there is doubt as to whether or not an individual is abusing heroin, consider noting the presence of any of the following signs and symptoms:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Engaging in risky behaviors when under the influence
  • Bursts of hyperactivity
  • Wearing long sleeved shirts or pants, even when weather is warm, in order to conceal injection sites
  • Inability to maintain responsibilities
  • Missing work
  • Possessing drug paraphernalia
  • Skin-picking
  • Engaging in criminal activity in order to acquire more heroin or to secure the funds needed to pay for heroin
  • Stealing
  • Lying

Physical symptoms:

  • Runny nose
  • Noticeable weight loss
  • Slurred speech
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Itching
  • Track marks / injection sites
  • Scabs or bruising of the skin
  • Dry mouth

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Disorientation
  • Inability to concentrate or sustain focus
  • Poor decision-making
  • Paranoia
  • Euphoria

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Emotional excitability
  • Depressed feelings
  • Decreased interest in things or activities that were previously enjoyed
  • Heightened levels of anxiety


Effects of Heroin Abuse

Heroin abuse can rob a person of so much more than just the ability to refrain from using this perilous substance. If an individual does not seek treatment to end his or her addiction to heroin, the following detrimental effects will likely occur:

  • Poverty
  • Child abuse / neglect
  • Exposure to infectious diseases
  • Abscesses at injection sites
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver disease
  • Collapsed veins
  • Family discord
  • Divorce
  • Increased interaction with the legal system
  • Domestic violence
  • Lung damage
  • Other vital organ damage
  • Loss of employment
  • Homelessness
  • Overdose
  • Death

Co-Occurring Disorders

Heroin Abuse & Co-Occurring Disorders

All too often, those who abuse heroin are also battling a mental illness at the same time. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other trauma-related disorders are among the most common mental health conditions that abusers of heroin grapple with at the same time as their addiction. This is due, in part, to the fact that mental illness symptoms can cause a person to turn to drugs as a means of escaping his or her emotional pain or such symptoms can become more apparent once the abuse of heroin ensues. In addition to these mental health disorders, the following are examples of other mental health conditions that are known to afflict abusers of heroin:

  • Other substance use disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Schizophrenia

Life Healing Center Home

Shooting up heroin became my only purpose in life. After hitting rock bottom, I knew I had to get help. Life Healing Center was the only place that was able to help me defeat my addiction. Thanks to the staff at LHC, I have been sober for 10 years now and am excited to see what life has in store for me!

– Daniel L.