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Side Effects of Heroin Addiction

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You’re not a stranger to substance use. You don’t get high every single night, but you like to use heroin to unwind sometimes, or when you’re hanging out with your friends. It feels nice and you have a family and stable job, so it doesn’t seem to be negatively impacting your life too much.

Recently, however, you’ve noticed that it’s been harder and harder for you to fall asleep at night. On top of that, your stomach has been acting up more than usual. You’re not sure why either of these are happening, and it doesn’t even occur to you that they might be related to each other. Turns out that these are both well-known heroin side effects. 

There are many reasons why knowing the side effects of substances can be helpful. Here at Pacific Sands Recovery, we hear many stories about the ways substance use has impacted people. With nearly 3 million people reported having a substance use disorder here in California within the past year, there’s good reason to have information about substance use readily available for all. As a facility focused on solution-based treatment, we know what a difference education can make. Today we’re looking at the side effects of heroin addiction and how you can address them.

What Are The Effects Of Heroin Misuse On The Body?

The exact effects of heroin can vary depending on your level of use and how you use it. Since there are different options for how to consume heroin, such as snorting or injecting, some of the long-term side effects can vary.

Let’s take a closer look at how exactly heroin impacts you.

Short-Term Effects

The short-term effects of heroin use most commonly occur during, and shortly after, use. These side effects can include things like dry mouth, flushed skin, nausea, vomiting, severe itching, going back and forth between conscious and unconscious, as well as feeling “out of it” mentally and physically. 

Long-Term Effects

The timeline of developing “long-term” effects can vary from person to person. Not only can it depend on how often you’re taking heroin, but it can depend on how much heroin you take at a time, and if you’re participating in polysubstance use regularly, too.

There are also side effects that are more specific to certain types of heroin use. For example, those who snort heroin are more likely to develop damaged tissue inside the nostrils. For those who inject heroin, they’re more likely to experience collapsed or damaged veins.

Here are some side effects that can occur in anyone misusing heroin, regardless of how they take it:

  • Insomnia
  • Developing or worsening depression
  • Abscesses
  • Constipation and stomach cramping
  • Infections in the heart lining and valves
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Increased risk for lung complications
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
Heroin addiction withdrawal symptoms

Heroin Addiction And Its Withdrawal Symptoms

Heroin is a synthetic opioid, and opioids are known for their withdrawal. 

Withdrawal occurs when the body has become accustomed to a substance. This substance normally impacts the body or mind’s functions when it’s present in the system. As a whole, our systems are very adaptable and can adjust to something else being present and altering how things work. When this substance is removed, however, the body has to adjust back. This period and the side effects that come from it are known as withdrawal. 

The symptoms of an opioid-based withdrawal include things like muscle aches, insomnia, sweating, goosebumps, vomiting, nausea, cramps, diarrhea, and more. They usually start within 12 hours of last use but some symptoms can last for weeks.

One of the most debilitating symptoms that comes from heroin withdrawal is the cravings. This, combined with the other symptoms, is why options like heroin detox programs can be so beneficial for successful, long-term recovery.

How To Spot The Side Effects Of A Heroin Overdose

A heroin overdose can occur when someone takes more of a substance than their body can handle. In the case of heroin and other opioids, this can be deadly if not acted on properly. In fact, opioids are the leading cause of overdose deaths.

If you notice a person showcasing signs such as pinpoint pupils, choking sounds, slowed breathing, blue-tinted skin, being cold to the touch, unconsciousness, and unresponsiveness – it’s time to call for help.

Because of the Good Samaritan Law here in California, you cannot be legally prosecuted for seeking medical help for an overdose. Additionally, there are ways to get access to Naloxone, a life-saving opioid overdose medication, here in California. Check out this website to find resources near you.

Heroin addiction recovery in California

How Is Heroin Addiction Treated In California?

Seeking recovery options for heroin addiction can sometimes feel overwhelming, but our team here at Pacific Sands is ready to help. Our comfortable facility is located in Orange County and offers a private and relaxing setting to begin your recovery journey. With 6 beds available for our clients and a clinical director who’s on-site 50 hours a week, you will get the individualized attention you deserve to build a strong foundation for recovery.

We offer everything from detox to residential care to guide you through heroin withdrawal safely before stepping into our treatment programming. For those managing an opioid addiction such as heroin, we also have medication-assisted treatment (MAT) options if you and your assigned medical team feel it is right for your recovery.

Our Pacific Sands team is here and ready to get you started anytime. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 949-426-7962.


What is a key reason for heroin being so addictive?

For those who’ve used heroin for a long time, or have used it heavily in the past, it’s common to develop strong cravings when you stop using it. This can lead to a difficult-to-break cycle of addiction for many people.


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