Heroin is a highly addictive substance that originates from a drug called morphine. Morphine is derived from opium poppy extracts and has been used historically in the treatment of pain. A synthetic version of heroin is called an opioid which is used in the production of prescription painkillers. Although heroin is an illegal version of the opioids contained in prescribed medications, both substances are equally addictive, placing users at risk of quickly developing dependence. In this article, we focus particularly on heroin addiction and take a look at the signs that could indicate an individual has a problem with the drug, what causes the illness and how it is treated by the best heroin rehab centers in America.

What causes heroin addiction?

The most compelling aspect of heroin use is the effects the drug has on the brain’s neurotransmitters. When a person uses heroin, they become artificially flooded with the natural chemical dopamine which sends pleasure signals around the body, creating a “high”. The pleasurable sensations created by heroin use are extremely intense although temporary and it can be this good feeling that leads to people wanting to repeat the experience. This is one of the most common routes to addiction that we at Elevate have seen in our research into heroin in San Francisco.

The problem is that if an individual continues to use heroin, they are likely to develop a tolerance to the drug’s effects. This means the person needs higher doses of heroin in order to achieve the sensations they seek. This places people in a vulnerable position as tolerance builds leading to more heroin use and ultimately dependence and addiction. The best heroin rehab centers offer programs specifically for people who are walking the very fine line between substance abuse and addiction, particularly in relation to heroin in San Francisco.

According to research into heroin use in San Francisco and elsewhere, many people abusing heroin initially started using opioids in prescription drug form. Opioid painkillers are generally prescribed for chronic pain conditions which means people are likely to be required to take them for a number of weeks. When tolerance inevitably develops, physicians are reluctant to increase doses for their patients, which can lead to them seeking to get the drug elsewhere. When this kind of drug-seeking pattern has been created, the individual is beginning to display the characteristics of heroin or opioid addiction.

Who’s at risk for a heroin addiction?

The best heroin rehab centers classify addiction as an illness which doesn’t discriminate on the basis of personal status or background. Due to the rapid rise in prescription opioid use, the demographic of people susceptible to developing addiction has significantly increased. The fact is that anyone can have an accident or health issue requiring painkillers and the nature of opioids is such that they are very easy to become dependent on, particularly for people managing chronic symptoms.

That said, there are certain risk factors at play that have the potential for increasing the risk of drug addiction including:

  • Family or personal history of substance use disorder
  • Heavy smokers
  • Presence of depression or anxiety
  • Exposure to high-risk or enabling people or environments
  • A propensity for risk-taking behavior

It is always important to bear in mind that not everyone prescribed drugs for chronic pain will go on to develop dependence or addiction. There are several factors involved in addiction illness that includes genetic, psychological and environmental considerations.

What are the symptoms of heroin addiction?

A person who is in the early stages of abusing opioids or heroin may not show any signs of their negative behavior. This is usually because people who are beginning to lose control of their drug use generally go to great lengths to conceal their problem.

Early on, there may be no symptoms of heroin use, especially if the person is going to great lengths to hide their habit. As time goes by it often becomes increasingly harder to conceal heroin use and some of the following signs and symptoms may emerge:

  • Irritation and agitation
  • Drowsiness and lethargy
  • Slurred speech or confusion
  • Depression and anxiety
  • A persistently runny nose (if snorting heroin)
  • Track lines or injection sites
  • Reduced pain sensations

Other more personal and behavioral symptoms of heroin use include:

  • Change in appearance and poor personal hygiene
  • Secretive, deceptive or aggressive behavior
  • Financial problems such as running out of cash or needing more without any apparent reason
  • Experiencing problems at school or work
  • Risk-taking behavior such as having casual sexual encounters, sharing needles or driving under the influence

Should any of the above symptoms emerge, individuals are recommended to seek help at a San Francisco heroin rehab center.

One of the major characteristics of heroin addiction is that the individual has no control over when they use the drug. This is because they are likely to experience significant withdrawal symptoms whenever they stop using or they have developed physical dependence. Addiction is a relapsing illness, which means that there is always a risk of returning to substance use and abuse even years after successful treatment.

How is heroin addiction treated?

Although the outlook for a person with heroin use disorder may seem to outsiders as bleak, our experience at Elevate tells us otherwise. We believe in treating heroin dependence and addiction with completely natural therapies which carry no risk of a patient becoming reliant on another chemical substance. When the brain has been significantly impacting by regular heroin or opioid use and abuse, it can take some time to unravel the damage. Every individual in rehab has their own unique set of needs and requirements in terms of the care they receive. Elevate uses a range of holistic therapies that address these needs for the maximum benefit of each patient in our centers.

The kind of treatment a patient will receive will depend on the following factors:

  • The needs, desires, and wishes of the individual
  • The substance being used and severity of addiction
  • The presence of any co-existing mental health condition (dual-diagnosis)

One of the main forms of treatment for heroin and opioid use disorder is behavioral therapy, which generally includes a program of the following:

  • One-to-one therapy
  • Group therapy sessions
  • Contingency management

Behavioral therapies are evidence-based, which means there is research that backs up their efficacy. It also means it is possible to monitor the progress of patients in behavioral therapy, measuring against known outcomes and researched indicators. When used in combination with either pharmacological or holistic treatments, (depending on the preference of the individual), behavioral therapies have a very high success rate for helping people achieve long-term recovery from heroin abuse.

Behavioral therapy seeks to achieve the following:

  • Identify the thoughts and feelings that act as triggers of heroin use
  • Teach patients tools and techniques for coping with triggers and cravings
  • Develop responses to negative situations and circumstances including relapse
  • Address the issues causing emotional discomfort and potentially driving heroin use

The sooner an individual accepts they have an issue with heroin use, the faster they can get the treatment they need. There are several routes to successfully overcoming heroin abuse, including San Francisco heroin rehab centers. We have seen a significant rise in addiction to opioids and heroin in San Francisco and we have devised specific rehab programs using behavioral and holistic therapies in combination to help people go on to live successfully in recovery from heroin for many years.