Heroin is a powerful and dangerous opiate. In the United States alone, recent estimates suggest that more than 1 million people abuse heroin on a regular basis leading to countless deaths due to overdose. Heroin produces a “downer” effect that rapidly induces a state of relaxation and euphoria (related to chemical changes in the pleasure centers of the brain). Like other opiates, heroin use blocks the brain’s ability to perceive pain.
The long-term consequences of heroin abuse may include:
- Chronic or phantom pain
- Low blood pressure
- Heart failure
- Suicidal thoughts
As with other drugs of abuse, heroin addiction is defined as persistent compulsive drug-seeking behavior despite significant negative consequences.
Common signs of heroin dependence include:
- Anxiety or irritability
- Constant fixation with finding and using drugs
- Depression and/or social withdrawal
- Increased secretive or deceptive behavior
- Reduced ability to focus or stay organized
- Severe changes in mood or behavior