Heroin use is common in those struggling with a substance use disorder in the United States. Unfortunately, heroin is a highly addictive drug and can often cause an overdose. Heroin is an opioid that is made from morphine and often helps with feelings of pain. It brings people to a false state of well-being, which causes them to use more to chase this feeling. Long-term heroin use is hazardous and can cause several physical and mental consequences. Treatment for heroin addiction is rigorous but can produce positive results that end in living a happy and sober life. 

Signs & Symptoms

Heroin can cause a variety of physical, psychological and behavioral symptoms.

Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms of heroin use or addiction include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Falling asleep unexpectedly
  • Stomach aches and pains
  • Constipation
  • Irregular breathing
  • Small pupils
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Itchy skin
  • Flushed skin

Psychological & Behavioral Symptoms

Psychological and behavioral symptoms of heroin use or addiction include:

  • Mood swings
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lack of interest
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Isolation
  • Decreased personal hygiene
  • Poor performance at school/work
  • Dishonest behavior
  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Stealing money to buy drugs
  • Hiding needle marks

The Impact of Heroin Addiction

The effects of heroin on the body are severe and can cause long-term health problems if use continues over an extended period. The impacts of heroin addiction can be caused or worsened by the method of drug consumption. Heroin use also affects the brain and the body. 

Effects Caused by Injecting

Injecting heroin can lead to several health problems, including collapsed veins. Injections can also result in skin abscesses and infection of the valves or lining of the heart. There is also the possibility of receiving and transmitting HIV and other diseases when injecting heroin.

Effects Caused by Snorting

Snorting heroin is known to harm the inside lining of the nose. It is also possible to damage the nasal septum and the roof of the mouth. Other effects of snorting heroin include loss of smell, trouble swallowing, and voice tone changes and pitch changes. 

Effects Caused by Smoking

Smoking heroin may lead to a higher risk of contracting throat, mouth or lung cancer. Using heroin by smoking can block air from entering the lungs, causing respiratory depression. Respiratory depression can result in lung infections, such as pneumonia. Smoking heroin may also lead to the early development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD can increase the risk of heart disease and lung cancer.

Effects of Heroin on the Brain

Long-term heroin use can lead to physiological changes and restructuring of the brain. Your ability to make decisions, respond to stress and regulate your emotions are all affected due to the deterioration of white matter. Due to the chemicals in heroin, long-term use can throw off the brain’s balance of neurons and hormones. You may also develop mental health disorders such as depression as a result of long-term heroin use.

Effects on Hormones

Extended heroin use can lead to imbalances in your hormones. For example, increases in testosterone in the body are possible in those who use heroin regularly. The effects of increased testosterone differ depending on gender. For women, raised testosterone levels can result in irregular menstrual cycles. For men, increased testosterone can lead to erectile dysfunction. 

Effects on Internal Organs

Aside from the brain, heroin use affects other organs. The liver and kidneys are affected by long-term use, often with permanent, irreversible damage. The bowels can also be affected, resulting in painful stomach cramps and constipation.

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

At Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford, heroin use can be treated with medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Treatment in patients who use heroin is achieved with medications alongside counseling and other behavioral therapies to heal and reach sobriety. MAT and behavioral therapy are best for helping with withdrawal symptoms and helping individuals get their life back on track following their use. 

A variety of medications are used to help with withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Bunavail buccal film
  • Cassipa sublingual film
  • Methadone
  • Naltrexone
  • Probuphine implant for subdermal administration
  • Sublocade injection for subcutaneous use
  • Suboxone sublingual film for sublingual or buccal use, or sublingual tablet
  • Subutex sublingual tablet
  • Zubsolv sublingual tablets

Alongside medication, Pinelands utilizes a variety of psychotherapies to aid in recovery. These include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Using these therapies helps “uncover the underlying triggers, thoughts, and negative emotions associated with heroin use disorder and help you develop healthy coping skills to deal with these triggers in the future.”

By using MAT coupled with psychotherapy, you can begin to heal. The center focuses on high-quality programs that will help you get sober and find joy in your newfound life. 


While heroin addiction can be challenging to overcome, it is not impossible. The use of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) alongside psychotherapy at Pinelands Recovery Center at Medford has had great success in treating various patients who have struggled with heroin addiction. For more information regarding heroin addiction and treatment, contact the facility today at (877) 557-5372.