Heroin is an opioid, meaning the drug activates opioid receptor sites in the central nervous system and on the brain. When someone uses heroin, they may feel a euphoric sensation or have other pleasurable short-term feelings. The person then will often feel drowsy as the euphoria wears off. Heroin can also relieve pain and provide short-term relaxation.
The euphoria and pleasant effects of heroin can result in addiction. Addiction develops as someone’s reward response in the brain is activated. With heroin, this reward response can lead to an addiction. A heroin addiction is defined by compulsive use of the drug and the inability to stop using it, even in the face of negative or unpleasant side effects.
Along with addiction, dependence is another risk that can occur when someone uses heroin. The brain and the entire central nervous system and body become dependent on heroin and its effects with repeated exposure. Heroin dependence means that if someone tries to stop using it or reduce the dosage amount, their body will react negatively due to becoming accustomed to the drug’s presence. As the body tries to return to normal functionality following a heroin dependence, withdrawal symptoms can occur. Heroin withdrawal symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe. For most people, a medical detox program is the best way to treat the symptoms and reduce possible complications.
Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
Heroin withdrawal symptoms can vary in severity depending upon a person’s extent of use. This can include how long they’ve used heroin for, whether they’ve previously detoxed from other opioids and the dosages of heroin they were regularly using. The fear or anxiety people have about experiencing heroin withdrawal can be one of the primary reasons they do not seek medical treatment. Going through heroin withdrawal can be extremely difficult, and the discomfort can be intense. However, there are prescription and over-the-counter medications that can help someone who’s experiencing heroin detox symptoms. Some of the common heroin withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
Other symptoms that can start later in the withdrawal timeline include:
- Dilated pupils
- Changes in blood pressure and heart rate
- Muscle spasms
As with other drugs, heroin withdrawal symptoms tend to be the opposite of the symptoms of using the drug. For example, heroin can cause drowsiness, and one of the primary heroin detox symptoms is insomnia. Using heroin can also cause relaxation, while a withdrawal symptom of the drug is anxiety.