Heroin, an opioid drug synthesized from morphine, is a naturally occurring substance extracted from the opium poppy plant. Heroin is typically obtained by users in one of three forms: white powder, brown powder, or black tar.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports a slight increase in heroin use among young adults over the last few years. Heroin is often taken intravenously (IV, or using a hypodermic needle) which exposes the IV drug user to serious risk for diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. Heroin can also be smoked (a.k.a. "chasing the dragon") or snorted (a.k.a. insufflated, or inhaled).

Although the heroin withdrawal experience is similar to withdrawal from opiate-based prescription drugs, heroin users often suffer more pronounced, acute symptoms. Due to the severity of heroin withdrawal, it is known to be extremely difficult for a heroin addict to kick the habit without some type of recovery-oriented assistance, making drug rehab or treatment centers highly recommended.

Signs of Heroin Dependence

  • Reckless behavior, such as stealing to obtain money to buy heroin
  • Runny nose or constant sniffing (seen in those who snort heroin)
  • Shallow breathing, labored breating
  • Needle marks (track marks) on arms, legs, elsewhere
  • Slurred speech, confusion
  • Hostility towards others, esp. when confronted about drug use
  • Skin infections
  • Difficulty controlling drug-taking behavior in terms of starting, stopping, amount used, frequency of use, etc.
  • Experiencing signs of physical withdrawal when drug use is stopped or lessened
  • Use of same or related drug in attempt to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms (i.e., stopping heroin and using another opiate-based drug instead)
  • Increasing tolerance of heroin (i.e., increased amounts of heroin are required in order to achieve effects formerly obtained from smaller doses)
  • Less interest in activities or interests historically enjoyed by the user
  • Increased amounts time spent seeking, obtaining, taking, and/or recovering from use of heroin
  • Continuing to use heroin despite clear evidence of negative consequences physically (e.g. harm to the liver, depression, or cognitive impairment) or socially

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms: Physical

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms: Psychological

Resources: Heroin Addiction

Resources: Risks of IV drug use