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Signs, Symptoms, and Effects of Heroin Addiction

The horrors of heroin addiction are real and can make you feel like there’s no way out. The voice inside your head will say anything to make it seem okay, make it seem like you’re okay. Struggling with addiction can pull you under, but there is a way out. Understanding your heroin addiction will be a strong foundation in the building blocks for a better life — a life without addiction and the struggles that accompany it.

Understanding Heroin Addiction

In order to understand heroin addiction, it’s important to know what heroin is, where it comes from, and the effects it has on your mind and body. Heroin is a very dangerous and harmful drug that hurts not only the individual who is using it, but the loved ones around the individual. So what is heroin?

The Basics of Heroin

Heroin is an opioid drug that is made from morphine. It comes in multiple forms but is most commonly a powder substance. Heroin enters the brain very quickly and attaches to opioid receptors on cells in many areas. These cells are involved in the feelings of pain and pleasure and in controlling heart rate, sleeping, and breathing. This type of effect can be particularly habit-forming, which can ultimately lead to addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

The signs and symptoms of heroin addiction can vary depending on various factors, including the following:

  • The individual person
  • How long they have been using substances
  • If the individual has any co-occurring mental health disorders
  • The presence of any other drug use

Heroin affects both the mind and the body. The following are the most common physical signs and symptoms:

  • Dry mouth
  • Flushed or itchy skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constricted pupils
  • Slow or heavy breathing
  • Constipation
  • Unwanted falling asleep
  • Weightloss from changes in eating
  • Tremors

Heroin addiction comes with many unpleasantries. In addition to the many physical symptoms listed above, the following are signs and symptoms affecting the mind that are associated with heroin addiction.

  • Memory loss
  • A disoriented or confused state of mind
  • Feelings of heaviness
  • Making decisions becomes difficult
  • Loss of self-control

Not only does heroin addiction bring many negative signs and symptoms, but long-term addiction can also lead to serious health effects. Understanding every aspect of heroin addiction and what is at risk can help you to make the powerful decision to reach out for help.

The Effects of Heroin Addiction

Individuals who struggle with this addiction may experience cardiac complications such as pericarditis, endocarditis, and atherosclerosis. Additionally, developing respiratory problems like pneumonia, depressed breathing, and other pulmonary diseases becomes a risk. The individual is also susceptible to coma, inability to care for themselves, and many other dangerous effects on the body, including death. According to the Government of Canada, 4,614 people died in 2016 due to overdose, and 5,247 died in 2017.

Due to the nature of heroin, the individual begins to lose self-control and decision-making skills. Heroin alters the parts of the brain that control communication skills and the process of information. Because of this, the individual may find it difficult to function, let alone quit the substance. This makes becoming addicted all too easy.

Causes and Risk Factors

Depending on the circumstances and the individual, the causes and risks for heroin addiction can vary. In general, both genetic and environmental factors can contribute to an increased risk of addiction.


Genetics can play a significant role in the causes of addiction. If there is a family history of drug use, the individual has a higher chance of drug use. Certain personality traits that are either learned or genetically passed down can also be a factor in developing a heroin addiction.


Being exposed to drugs like heroin at a young age can lead to addiction early on as well. People often turn to drugs in order to cope with stresses in their home life. They may use drugs to deal with traumatic events that have happened to them as well. When young, people are particularly susceptible to peer pressure which paves the way to a future of addiction in adult life.

Individuals with preexisting mental illnesses, low self-esteem, and a lack of a support system are also at risk of heroin addiction. A study published by the Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention in Canada showed that 74% of opioid deaths from January 2016 to June 2017 occurred among males. However, there is strong evidence that implies that gender statistics vary from region to region. According to this same study, the following was found:

  • In the western jurisdictions of British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories, more men are dying than women (approximately 4:1)
  • The same was found to be true in Ontario (approximately 2:1)
  • In some Prairie and eastern provinces such as Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Labrador, women represent nearly as many deaths as men (approximately 1:1 to 3:2)

Statistics such as these are staggering. Heroin brings physical and emotional damage to the individual and their loved ones. The good news is there is a way out. There are options available to you from people who care.

When to Seek Help

Struggling with heroin addiction or any other drug is a challenging thing. You may feel like you are all alone like you have no one to turn to, and you’re stuck in a vicious cycle. The beautiful thing is, any time is a good time to seek help. Rehabilitation programs work at any stage of addiction. You don’t have to worry or wait. There are options available, and they are available right now.

You don’t have to do this alone. The voice inside your head that tells you there’s no way out is wrong. At BeWell, we know you are stronger than you think. You are stronger than heroin and any other substance. You merely need the tools and the confidence to overcome your addiction. Our team at BeWell will guide you every step of the way and show you the strength you hold within. Let us be your foundation in the building blocks to a strong and independent life that is free of addiction. You can do this, and we would love nothing more than to help guide you down this path to freedom. Call us today at (647) 715-3900.

About the Author

Katlyn Morrison

Registered Psychotherapist
Katlyn is a Registered Psychotherapist with 10 years of experience in the field of mental health and addiction. Katlyn’s experience has allowed her to specialize in working with individuals impacted by substance use, depression, anxiety, trauma, personality disorders, stress, and grief and loss. She integrates a variety of modalities into her practice including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI) and Attachment and Trauma Focused Therapy.