What is Heroin?

Heroin is refined from the milky sap-like resin of the opium poppy and is an illegal opiate.  This highly effective painkiller produces a euphoric high and makes the user feel an overwhelming sense of euphoria and pleasure.

Heroin mimics the natural endorphins released by the brain and these flood the space between the nerve cells. This stops them from reacting the way they should and produces the comforting high the drug is famous for. If heroin is taken regularly the brain stops producing its own endorphins and begins to rely on the intruding chemical.

Heroin can be smoked injected or snorted. In an effort to cease taking heroin and curb the consequences of its use, some addicts also end up reliant on opioid replacement therapies/substitutes.

What are the effects of Heroin addiction?

Heroin addiction has a potentially devastating effect on the individual and even over a relatively short period of time can have a severe effects on their wellbeing.

Every addict’s path into addiction varies. This is a complex disease with many underlying layers which coupled together with trauma, abuse, depression and anxiety make it difficult to diagnose and treat without effective residential addiction treatment.


  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakening of the immune system
  • Insomnia
  • Bad teeth and inflammation of the gums
  • Respiratory illnesses
  • Muscular weakness or partial paralysis
  • Reduced sexual capacity for men and women and long-term impotence in men
  • Menstrual disturbance in women
  • Heart problems, including infection of heart lining and valves
  • Infectious diseases spread by shared needles (HIV and hepatitis B and C)
  • Blood clots or tissue death resulting from collapsed veins
  • Liver disease
  • Arthritis and other rheumatologic problem
  • Changes in the brain chemistry – short term
  • Changes in the structure and function of the brain – long term
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Unhealthy eating habits/malnutrition
  • Cravings
  • Tolerance


  • Memory loss and reduced intellectual capacity
  • Triggers
  • Compulsion
  • Obsession
  • Lying to yourself/denial


  • Apathy /Exhaustion
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Memory loss
  • Mood Swings
  • Paranoia
  • Fear
  • Loneliness



  • Potential increase in risky behaviour
  • Financial problems
  • Sexual problems
  • Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Lack of interest in work/school
  • Lack of interest and ability in maintain relationships/friendships
  • Damaged relationships with family members
  • Isolation
  • Lying to others


  • Damaged self-esteem and self-worth
  • Damaged relationship with self
  • Lack of interest in life
  • Inability to function without the drug
  • Continued use despite negative consequences

The signs and symptoms of heroin addiction get progressively worse over time and there will be no resolution until effective addiction treatment and aftercare are sought.

Heroin Withdrawal

For many heroin addicts this can be a frightening prospect as they have done everything within their power not to feel the intense symptoms of withdrawal. These are not life threatening but can be very physically painful and unpleasant

Withdrawal symptoms from heroin can include:

  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Tearing up
  • Runny nose
  • Chills
  • Stomach cramps
  • Pain in joints and/or muscles
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Insomnia

The Two Stages of Withdrawal – Acute and Post-Acute

There are often two stages of withdrawal process from heroin addiction. The first stage has immediate acute symptoms and these are usually both physical and physiological. During stage two, former users experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms or PAWS.

These refer to a number of psychological symptoms which can last for weeks or months after the user has stopped taking the drug. This is one of many reasons why residential treatment is the most effective way to treat heroin addiction.

Post-acute withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Cravings
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Lack of motivation
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Anger or emotional outbursts

Heroin Withdrawal at Hader Clinic

Heroin addiction withdrawal treatment is very specific and symptoms may vary in severity and duration depending on the client. Usually these are both psychologically uncomfortable and physically unpleasant.

Accurate assessment by our capable medical team determines if our clients require a medicated period of detoxification.  This will depend on the individual’s circumstances and symptoms are always closely monitored by our skilled clinical and medical staff and treated accordingly.

Our team are highly experienced in providing safe and effective heroin detox programs. They aim to keep clients as comfortable and supported as possible so they can participate in the program.

At every stage of the process, clients are monitored, evaluated and their successes acknowledged. This really helps our staff to respond to what is going on for the clients and helps to instill an ever-growing sense of self-esteem and a new found confidence.