Overcoming heroin addiction opens the door to better relationships, better opportunities, and a better future.

The Heroin Crisis in the U.S.

Heroin has remained popular in the United States throughout the second half of the 20th century. However, addiction to heroin and other opiates reached a point of crisis in the mid-2000s. As legal prescription painkillers became increasingly accessible and overprescribed, opioid abuse gripped the country — along with the increasing use of heroin as well. Many people who became addicted to legally prescribed opioids turned to heroin when the pills ran out or became inaccessible. A study from the American Public Health Association indicates that nearly 80 percent of those who first used heroin in the past year had previously abused pain medication.

Niznik Behavioral Health has witnessed the devastating effects of addiction to opiates and opioids, including prescription painkillers, fentanyl, and heroin. The influx of the potent opiate fentanyl has only worsened the problem, causing many heroin users to overdose accidentally. 

Along with other opiates, heroin is a very difficult addiction to overcome. But with compassion and expertise, drug rehab can help you recover.

What Is Heroin?

Known informally as “H, “smack” or “horse,” heroin derives from the seed of the opium poppy plant. It can take on a variety of appearances, depending on where it’s from and where in the United States it’s being sold. It’s commonly available as white or light brown powder. “Black tar” heroin is a dark, sticky substance that is full of impurities.

Heroin can be smoked or snorted, although many people prefer to inject it directly into their veins. It’s also not unusual to mix heroin with other substances. For instance, some people combine heroin with crack cocaine, a practice known as “speedballing,” which amplifies the highs (and the dangers) of both drugs.

Heroin Overdose

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioid-involved overdose deaths (including heroin, fentanyl and prescription opioids) rose from 21,088 in 2010 to 47,600 in 2017 and remained steady in 2018 with 46,802 deaths.

Heroin overdose is an especially grave concern. As you might expect, heroin is rarely the same from batch to batch. It’s almost always cut with fillers and other substances, so it’s impossible to know how potent it is.

Today, the market has been flooded with fentanyl — a synthetic opioid that’s 20 to 50 times stronger than heroin.

Many heroin users have inadvertently purchased fentanyl-laced heroin and overdosed by accident.  Harm reduction efforts are underway to provide testing mechanisms to identify the presence of fentanyl in heroin purchased on the street.

Overdose on heroin and other opiates like fentanyl leads to slowed breathing and a dangerous drop in oxygen called hypoxia. Hypoxia from overdose can lead to brain damage, coma, and death.

Fortunately, with immediate medical assistance, Narcan reverses the debilitating effects of a heroin overdose. Narcan is not a panacea or a work-around for continued abuse, yet its administration is responsible for saving thousands of lives across the United States.

Signs of Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction symptoms vary from user to user. Some signs are more subtle than others. If you’re worried your loved one is using heroin, keep an eye out for:

  • Dry mouth
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Slow heart rate
  • Unkempt appearance and poor hygiene
  • Withdrawing from personal relationships
  • Disinterest in activities or responsibilities
  • Loss of concentration and motor control
  • “Track marks” (from injection sites) on the arms
  • Missing valuables or money (to be used for drugs)
  • Slipping in and out of consciousness “nodding out”
  • Drug paraphernalia: syringes, scorched spoons, glass or metal pipes, aluminum

Heroin Addiction Treatment

While heroin is notoriously addictive, the treatment of addiction to heroin and other opiates has come a long way. In the past, rehab centers relied exclusively on a 12-step treatment model. This approach can be quite effective, and all Niznik Behavioral Health rehab facilities offer this option. However, there are other evidence-based therapies and medical approaches that can complement traditional approaches.

Abstaining from heroin is important, of course. But it’s only part of the picture. In order to find true healing, it’s necessary to explore the causes behind the addiction, then work through them to become healthier in mind, body and spirit.

Each Niznik Behavioral Health facility meets you right where you are on your journey, providing you with an individual recovery plan across a complete continuum of care. Treatment phases can include medical detox, residential inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment options like our partial hospitalization program and intensive outpatient program, as well as aftercare.

Throughout your treatment at Niznik Behavioral Health, you’ll participate in group or individual therapies — including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). You’ll also have access to wellness options like yoga and meditation to encourage mindfulness and healing in recovery. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with heroin addiction, please don’t just hope the problem will solve itself. The time to act is now … before it’s too late. Call Niznik Behavioral Health today. We’ll be here to help you get started.


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