Tree House Recovery NC

Heroin Addiction Treatment

Understanding and Getting Off Herion

What is Heroin?

Heroin addiction is a highly deadly disorder. Heroin is a synthetic opioid created to manage pain and was also originally intended to treat morphine addiction. However, since heroin is more potent than morphine, it is also more addictive. Heroin has been illegal for medical and recreational use in the U.S. since 1920, but since it’s so addictive, many people continue to purchase it illegally. Today, heroin carries the third highest amount of deaths from overdose. If you or a loved one is addicted to heroin, know that there is help available through substance abuse treatment. Tree House Recovery’s heroin addiction treatment center in North Carolina can provide you with the resources and support necessary for lasting, sustainable sobriety.

Heroin is a Schedule I narcotic [1].

This means it is considered to have no acceptable medical use and has a high potential for abuse, addiction, and overdose

Narcotic Analgesic [1].

Heroin's Origins

Heroin comes from synthetically distilling morphine. Morphine, in turn, is the product of synthetically distilling opium. When opium became available for recreational use, a widespread epidemic of addiction and overdose followed. In 1803, morphine was introduced as a “non-addictive” substitute for opium [2]. But because morphine is more potent, addiction and overdose continued to grow. In 1874, Bayer Pharmaceutical, the makers of modern aspirin, introduced heroin as a non-addictive alternative to morphine that could also treat pain. By 1920, when the U.S. outlawed heroin, it had killed hundreds of thousands [2]. 

Today, people continue to illegally grow the opium poppy plant in parts of the world with the proper conditions for the plant (Mexico, Asia, and the Middle East). They send the plant to labs where its sap is chemically altered to make heroin. This, in turn, is smuggled around the world and sold illegally.

Understanding Heroin Addiction and Treatment

Tree House addiction counselor Rob Mo the signs and symptoms of heroin use, withdrawal symptoms, how it is used, what heroin looks like, street names for heroin, and heroin addiction treatment.

What Does Heroin Look Like?

In its purest form, heroin is a fine white powder. Less pure heroin has a brown color while the least pure form available is a crude black tar [3]. However, dealers and manufacturers put additives or other substances in heroin to increase the amount of the drug they can sell and their profits. This process is called “cutting” and makes heroin difficult to spot because depending on the additives, heroin could be purple, pink, or blue. More importantly, just because heroin is white doesn’t mean it hasn’t been cut with another white chemical.

If you believe you’ve found heroin, the best way to confirm is with a test strip available at your local pharmacy.

Image of white heroin addiction
White Heroin
Image of brown heroin
Brown Heroin
Image of black tar heroin
Black Tar Heroin

How is Heroin Used?

As a Schedule I narcotic, it is illegal to prescribe heroin or even carry it in a hospital. People who use it get it from street dealers and can use it in one of three ways. It can be injected directly into the bloodstream, inhaled through the nose, or smoked [6]. 

In its pure form, heroin is a powder. More crude and impure heroin comes as tar. These forms of heroin can be cooked into a liquid that is injected, or ignited so that the person could inhale the fumes (known as chasing the dragon). Powder forms of heroin can also be snorted through the nose [6]. 

Legally and illegally manufactured fentanyl are both abused. When used and abused for recreation, it is taken in several ways. The illegally made fentanyl is typically made as a powder, blotted on paper, put in eye droppers or nasal sprays, or pressed into pills.

However, it is primarily cut into other drugs like heroin, meth, or cocaine, and it can also be pressed into MDMA pills. Making fentanyl is cheap, and adding it to other drugs reduces their cost. Unfortunately, the added fentanyl increases the risk of overdose when people take drugs unknowingly mixed with fentanyl.

Dangers of Heroin:

Before the creation of fentanyl, heroin was the most potent and therefore lethal painkiller in the world. Heroin’s ability to blot out physical and emotional pain makes it incredibly appealing to people with co-occurring mental health issues like PTSD, a history of trauma, or homelessness. But as a person’s tolerance grows, they will eventually graduate to injecting heroin, which is when the risk of overdose is incredibly high. Those who are struggling with heroin addiction can find a path forward at Tree House Recovery’s heroin rehab center in North Carolina, where they will receive individualized care and attention.

Heroin Overdose Rates:

Opioids, including heroin, have led the nation in drug overdose deaths since the early 90’s when the first opioid epidemic began [5]. Heroin has killed five to 20 thousand people a year, every year, since 2010—that’s 50 to 200 thousand people so far.

For more information on Fentanyl and Heroin

Overdose Graph: Heroin & Fentanyl

fentanyl vs heroin overdose graph

Signs of Heroin Abuse

Physical Signs:

Like other opioids, physical signs of heroin abuse are small pupils and excessive drowsiness. This kind of drowsiness, known as nodding out or nodding off, is very recognizable. For instance, someone can nod off in the middle of a sentence or busy place. Those who use opioids often experience weight loss and other withdrawal symptoms.

Changes in Behavior

Opioids like heroin create euphoria when they are abused. This can lead to random shifts in energy such as extreme happiness followed by a crash. Other behaviors include low appetite, mood swings, and loss of energy.

Side Effects of Heroin

If you think someone is abusing heroin, you can look for the following side effects [6].  

  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Euphoria
  • Nausea
  • Pain relief
  • Sedation
  • Tolerance
  • Relaxation
  • Respiratory depression and arrest
  • Unconsciousness
  • Urinary retention
  • Coma
  • Death

Common Street Names for Heroin

Because heroin is illegal, those who use it often refer to it with other names. If you hear someone using one of these terms, it could be a sign they are using heroin and could benefit from a heroin addiction treatment center:

  • Dragon
  • Dope
  • Heron
  • Hero
  • H
  • Big H
  • White
  • China White
  • White Horse
  • Boy
  • He
  • Black Tar
  • Brown
  • Brown Rhine
  • White Girl
  • Mexican Brown

Heroin Overdose Symptoms

If you believe someone is overdosing on heroin, call 911 right away. Medical professionals can administer naloxone to reverse a heroin overdose long enough to get them to a hospital. Heroin overdose usually has symptoms like [6]:

  • Blue lips and fingernails (cyanosis)
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Coma
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Limp body
  • Low blood pressure
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Slow heart rate
  • Small “pinned” pupils size

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Heroin withdrawal symptoms can begin four to five hours after a person uses the drug and will intensify the longer someone goes without heroin. Generally, the worst heroin withdrawal symptoms appear three days after someone quits using. Symptoms include:

  • Cold flashes and sweats
  • Diarrhea
  • Intense heroin cravings
  • Legs spasm and restless leg
  • Pain in the muscles or bones
  • Insomnia
  • Vomiting

Our Heroin Treatment Program in North Carolina

There are three phases necessary to treat heroin addiction effectively in a heroin rehab center. It starts with medical detox to help overcome withdrawal symptoms and is followed by an evidence-based treatment program. The last step is creating an individual maintenance plan that includes relapse prevention strategies and skills.



Robert Funk: Addiction Writer