Tree House Recovery NC

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use?

Today, much of the focus on the opioid epidemic is centered on fentanyl and other prescription medications. However, close to a million Americans don’t primarily use these kinds of opioids. Instead, they use the street drug heroin. Everyone who takes heroin exposes themselves to a wide range of damaging effects. Some of these effects can arise with the short-term use of the drug. However, others only make themselves known with long-term use. Whether you or a loved one is struggling with heroin use, heroin addiction treatment can help you regain your sobriety.

Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use on the Brain


More than two out of every three people who use heroin are addicted to the drug. Addiction is the result of lasting changes in your everyday brain function. These changes alter your normal levels of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Over time, altered neurotransmitter levels can set the stage for:

  • Physical dependence on heroin
  • Psychological, i.e., emotional dependence on the drug
  • A compulsive need to seek out more heroin to use

Together, these three issues characterize an addicted state.

Other Damaging Effects

The long-term side effects of heroin also change your brain in other ways. Crucially, they can alter this essential organ’s actual physical structure. One key alteration occurs in your brain’s white matter. You rely on this form of tissue to support normal nerve communication.

Long-term heroin use can cause your white matter to deteriorate. As a result, you may experience one or more of several kinds of problems. For example, you may lose some of your ability to make sound decisions. You may also lose some of your ability to control your behavior. In addition, damaged white matter can potentially change your reactions to high-stress situations.

Effects of Heroin Addiction on Other Essential Organs

The harmful effects of heroin addiction are not just limited to your brain. Long-term use of the drug can lead to liver disease. It can also damage your kidneys. In addition, chronic heroin use can increase your risks for certain kinds of serious lung disease. Examples of these conditions include both tuberculosis and pneumonia. 

Heroin use can also seriously harm your heart. Problems you may experience include infections in this organ’s valves and/or lining. In addition, chronic heroin use can increase your overall risk for heart failure.

Additional Potential Effects

You may also experience other kinds of harm if you use heroin for extended periods of time. Examples of these possible issues include:

  • Insomnia
  • Chronic constipation
  • Serious nutritional deficiencies
  • Lowered immune function

In addition, long-term heroin use can lead to impotence in men and altered menstruation in women. 

Side Effects of Heroin Related to IV Injection 

Some people who use heroin inject the drug into their veins. In the long run, this method of use can lead to problems such as vein collapse and skin abscesses. It can also lead to the onset of a skin and soft tissue infection called cellulitis. What’s more, IV heroin use seriously increases your risks for HIV/AIDS, as well as hepatitis B and hepatitis C.   

Get More Information on the Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use at Tree House Recovery

Want to know more about the numerous long-term effects of heroin? Contact the addiction professionals at Tree House Recovery. We’ll help you understand the risks that come with prolonged heroin use. We can also show you how effective treatment allows you to avoid these risks.

Are you or your loved one addicted to heroin? Tree House provides the customized, specialized care you need to recover. We can also help you recover from any other form of opioid addiction. To get started, just call us today at 910.519.8835 or complete our online contact form.

Understanding the Opioid Epidemic

Today, more Americans are suffering from opioid-related harms than at any other point in history. The common name for this modern surge is the opioid epidemic. Understanding the opioid epidemic can give you a clearer view of opioids’ impact on U.S. society. It can also underscore the importance of reducing your exposure to the problems associated with these substances. If you or someone you know already have such problems, an opioid addiction treatment program can help restore your sobriety.

How Did the Opioid Epidemic Develop?

In the late 1990s, doctors across America started prescribing opioids more than ever before. Versions of those substances available at that time were:

  • Natural opioids such as codeine and morphine
  • Semisynthetic opioids such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and hydromorphone
  • Methadone

The increased use of these medications led to what’s known as the opioid epidemic’s first wave. A second wave followed the first one in 2010. The substance primarily responsible for the second wave of the opioid crisis was heroin. The epidemic’s still-active third wave started three years later. Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids account for the bulk of this latest surge. 

What are the Consequences of the Opioid Crisis?

Overdose Deaths

Every year, federal researchers track the number of people who die from drug overdoses in the U.S. Over the past two decades, over half a million people have died from an opioid overdose. Today, almost three out of every four fatal overdoses are opioid-related. 

Opioid deaths were already on the rise before the pandemic began in 2020. Since that time, the number of fatal overdoses has skyrocketed. However, not all opioids play an equal role in this trend. By far, the most common sources of the problem are synthetic opioids. In many cases, people who die with opioids in their system have also used other drugs.


The opioid epidemic has also significantly increased the nation’s rate of opioid addiction. Today, roughly 2.7 million Americans have diagnosable cases of opioid use disorder or OUD. This illness includes all forms of opioid addiction. It all includes cases of non-addicted opioid abuse severe enough to interfere with daily function. Prescription opioids are involved in the vast majority of OUD diagnoses.

Causes of Opioid Abuse

The underlying issue in opioid overdoses is typically abuse of a given substance. You abuse an opioid medication when you violate the terms of prescription use. Abuse sldo occurs every time you use a street opioid. Opioid abuse is also a fundamental factor in the onset of addiction. Why? Heavy opioid use fuels the brain and behavior changes that lead to addiction.

You may start abusing an opioid for any number of reasons. The most common causes of opioid abuse include:

  • Attraction to the euphoric effects of opioids
  • Attempts to relieve serious pain
  • A desire to relieve stress
  • Peer pressure from others who abuse opioids 

The effects of mental health conditions may also play a role. For example, you may abuse an opioid out of an urge to self-medicate your symptoms. 

Learn More About the Opioid Epidemic at Tree House Recovery

Want more information on the opioid epidemic? The experts at Tree House can further clarify the impact of this crisis. We can also explain what puts you at risk for serious opioid problems. 

Need treatment for existing opioid addiction? Tree House can help. We specialize in the treatment of opioid problems. With our support, you can overcome addiction. You can also avoid the possibility of a fatal opioid overdose. We feature an intensive outpatient model for opioid treatment. This model gives you flexibility and freedom as you progress toward sobriety. To get started, just call us today at 910.519.8835.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is an extremely potent synthetic opioid notorious for its ability to produce serious harm. Those harms prominently feature heightened risks for an overdose. They also include heightened risks of developing a diagnosable drug problem. Fentanyl addiction treatment helps you reduce your exposure to these well-known health issues. It can also help you avoid the many other potential consequences of long-term fentanyl use.

Side Effects of Fentanyl

Fentanyl is both a prescription medication and an illegal street drug. Even when used as intended under a doctor’s supervision, it can trigger significant side effects. Common examples of these effects include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • A confused mental state
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Impaired body balance

The potential side effects of fentanyl also include slurred speech and a declining appetite.

The Effects of Fentanyl Abuse

Fentanyl is often a target of drug abuse or misuse. You can misuse a prescription form of the drug by taking it more often than intended. Other acts of prescription misuse include using someone else’s fentanyl and using the drug for recreational purposes. Any use of illegally produced or purchased fentanyl also qualifies as misuse.


Misuse of fentanyl is a common factor in cases of overdose. An overdose occurs when the presence of the drug seriously impairs your central nervous system. Compared to other common opioids, fentanyl is incredibly potent. This fact helps explain the increasing number of fatal overdoses related to its use. Overdose is both a short- and long-term risk for anyone who misuses fentanyl.


The potential effects of fentanyl abuse also include opioid addiction. How does addiction develop? Frequent exposure to fentanyl can cause your brain to expect its presence in your bloodstream. If your brain undergoes this change, you become physically dependent on the drug. 

Continuing misuse of fentanyl at this point can make you emotionally reliant on fentanyl. In other words, your physical need for it will now be accompanied by a psychological need. As a result of these overlapping needs, you may start compulsively seeking out more fentanyl to take. This compulsive urge marks a full transition into diagnosable addiction.

Other Long-Term Effects of Fentanyl

Long-term fentanyl use or misuse may lead to a number of other problems. Examples of these problems include:

  • Impaired breathing
  • An unstable mood
  • Chronic constipation
  • Changes in your libido
  • Menstrual problems in women

Long-term use of the drug can also damage your brain. As a result, you may have problems making decisions or controlling your behavior. In addition, fentanyl use can eventually damage your liver. 

Effects of Using Other Substances with Fentanyl

Many people who misuse fentanyl also misuse other substances. This behavior is known as polydrug abuse. It can seriously elevate your risks for short- and long-term problems. 

Two forms of polydrug use are especially risky. One involves the use of fentanyl with alcohol. The other involves the use of the drug with a prescription sedative. Fentanyl, alcohol, and sedatives all slow down your central nervous system. When you misuse any of them at the same time, you are much more likely to overdose. 

Find Out More About the Long-Term Effects of Fentanyl at Tree House Recovery

Have further questions about the potential long-term effects of fentanyl abuse? Talk to the addiction professionals at Tree House Recovery. We have the answers you need to understand the risks that come with this powerful opioid.

Tree House also specializes in the treatment of fentanyl addiction. We feature holistic, outpatient care. Our goal is to help you recover in as effective and convenient a manner as possible. Call us today at 910.519.8835 to get your fentanyl treatment started. You can also contact us through our online form.