Menu Close

Live Out Your Best Future

Take the first step toward addiction treatment by contacting us today.

5 Health Effects of Heroin Addiction

man lying in bed considering the effects of heroin addiction

Heroin is a highly addictive drug that creates feelings of euphoria and strong cravings after stopping use. Without proper intervention, heroin can affect your brain, heart, fertility, liver, and digestive system. However, heroin addiction treatment can make a difference. The support and care of professionals, friends, and family are essential to long-term sobriety.

The Effects of Heroin on The Body

Heroin can have a number of short- and long-term effects on your body. Even after just one use, you may develop cravings or have trouble thinking straight. Some of the most common effects of heroin include:

1. Suppressed Mental Function

Shortly after using heroin, a person experiences a suppression of the central nervous system. This creates mental cloudiness. It’s hard to respond to people and make decisions in this state. This suppressed mental function is a short-term effect. It eventually passes as heroin leaves the system. However, when the person craves more heroin, the clouded mental function makes it temporarily hard to resist cravings. Over time, heroin causes permanent changes to the physiology of the brain. Studies have linked it to the deterioration of the brain’s white matter, which can cause poor decision-making abilities. People who lose white matter lose their ability to regulate behavior or respond properly to stress.

2. Cardiovascular Disease

Because it is often injected, heroin affects the cardiovascular system as well. Intravenous heroin use can cause collapsed or scarred veins near the injection site. Bacterial infections of the heart valves and blood vessels are both common as well. Lack of sterile injection technique is the most common reason for these complications. However, a careful injection cannot completely remove this risk because the drug itself impacts the overall health of the blood vessels and heart. Some types of heroin also contain additives that can clog blood vessels. If these additives block blood vessels leading to the lungs, kidney, brain, or liver, stroke and organ failure are possible.

3. Liver Disease

Hepatitis C is directly connected to liver disease, and approximately 3.5 million people in the United States have this virus. If not treated, it causes cirrhosis of the liver, a chronic and potentially fatal liver disease. It can also lead to liver cancer. Heroin injection increases the risk of hepatitis C infections spreading. Shared needles and drug preparation equipment expose people to bodily fluids that contain the virus. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, one person infected with hepatitis C who injects drugs will infect around 20 additional people within the first three years of infection.

4. Chronic Constipation

Long-term effects of heroin administered in any form, including injection or snorting, can lead to chronic constipation. Chronic constipation can cause blockages in the colon or rectum. Straining to have a bowel movement can lead to tears in the anal tissue. If left untreated, chronic constipation increases the risk of colon cancer or intestinal blockage. Other abdominal organs that press on the colon are at higher risk for cancer when someone suffers from chronic constipation. It also increases the risk of rectal cancer.

5. Infertility and Pregnancy Complications In Women

Women who use heroin are at higher risk for infertility and menstrual cycle disruption. Disruptions in menstruation can make it more difficult to become pregnant later, even after stopping use. In addition, some studies have found that pregnant women who choose to use heroin are at high risk of having a spontaneous miscarriage. If a pregnant woman continues to use heroin and the baby is not miscarried, the mother has an increased risk of premature delivery. Babies born to people addicted to heroin are often at low birth weight and may suffer from withdrawal symptoms at birth.

How to Reverse the Effects of Heroin Addiction

There is hope for people addicted to heroin. Although the drug causes permanent changes in the brain, treatment can help people learn how to live without it. The most effective approach to treatment is a combination of therapy, support groups, and medication. A few of the therapies often used in heroin addiction treatment include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy – This type of therapy helps people addicted to heroin identify and change the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to their addiction.
  • Family therapy – Through sessions with a therapist, people in addiction treatment and their loved ones can work through the challenges that come with having a family member addicted to drugs.
  • Group therapy – This type of therapy provides support and guidance from people who are facing similar challenges.
  • Individual therapy – In individual therapy sessions, people in addiction treatment can work one-on-one with a therapist to address the underlying causes of their addiction.

Treating Heroin Addiction at Woodland Recovery Center

The long-term health effects of heroin use have serious consequences. If you or someone you love is battling heroin addiction, you need to get help to avoid these problems. Our professional opioid addiction treatment in Mississippi uses evidence-based programming to focus on healing and lasting change. At Woodland Recovery Center, we want to help. Reach out to us today at 662.222.2989 to learn how you can start your recovery journey in a supportive and nurturing environment.