What is heroin?
Heroin is a highly addictive drug with four times the analgesic, or painkiller effect of morphine. It comes in either a white or brown powder form or can look like black tar.
Heroin can be injected into a vein, under the skin or into a muscle. It is sometimes smoked in a water pipe or mixed in a marijuana joint or regular cigarette. Some report inhaling the smoke through a straw, or snorting the powder form through one’s nose.
Heroin is a fast acting drug. Depending on the method of use, the rush, or an intense pleasure lasts for a few minutes but leaves users sluggish, tired, fuzzy-headed and useless for a few hours. The effect can usually last 4 to 6 hours. Tolerance and addiction to heroin develop quickly. Addiction is considered a mental illness because drugs change both the brain’s structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long lasting and can lead to the harmful behaviors seen in people who abuse drugs.
Medical problems associated with heroin use can be any of the following: collapsed veins, brain abscesses, blood clots, Hepatitis C, HIV (acquired through infected needles), respiratory failure, infections of the heart lining and valves. Heroin use can lead to crime, addiction, medical problems, overdose and even death.
*From the National Institute on Drug Abuse
CLICK HERE to download our “Spotlight” sheet on heroin.
Do I have a problem with drugs?
If you think that you may have a problem with heroin or any other drug you can take the following self-assessment. The assessment is anonymous and is meant to enlighten you about your own level of drug and/or alcohol involvement. Self Assessment: Do I Have a Problem?
If you believe that you may need treatment, understand that you are not alone. The Council on Chemical Abuse can assist you in determining your next step towards recovery. Email us to request more information or call our office at (610) 376-8669.
Does someone I know have a heroin addiction?
Drug abuse is not always as obvious as portrayed in the media. Educating yourself on the signs and symptoms of heroin abuse may lead you to question a coworker, friend, or family member’s physical and behavioral characteristics.
Behavioral Signs of heroin use
Mood swings, personality changes, defensiveness, extremely emotional, self-centered, manipulative, withdrawn, dressing differently, changes in relationships with friends, social problems, and anxiety.
Physical Characteristics of heroin addiction
Bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, dizziness, sweating profusely, constantly cold, shaky hands, looking/feeling ‘run down’, weight loss, weight gain, severe itching, and dry mouth.
Paraphernalia associated with heroin use
Hypodermic needles, aluminum bottle caps, cigarette lighters, razors, tinfoil, vials, small plastic bags, spoons, straws, tourniquets.
Concerned individuals should visit Intervention to look at some various ways to discuss your concern with them. Addiction affects the entire family unit and can extend past the family into friends, co-workers, etc. There are many emotions that surround someone’s substance abuse: guilt, shame, rejection, resentment, and anger. Getting someone to recognize that treatment is necessary is the first step towards recovery. Realize that you can provide support and encourage treatment, but the disease of addiction is something one has to commit to treating on their own terms.
CLICK HERE for further information about overdoses and safety advice for first responders, community and family members.
Medical attention should be sought immediately if anyone is suspected of withdrawing or overdosing from heroin!
Where can I get help?
- Reading Health System 24 Hour Addiction Hotline (484) 628-8186
- Treatment Access and Services Center, Inc. (TASC) Opiate Overdose Survivor 24-Hour Hotline (610) 988-0685
- 12-Step: Narcotics Anonymous (NA) Reading Area of Narcotics Anonymous (610) 374-5944 or Find a Meeting
- Find more about support groups and resources HERE.
For Family and Friends
- Al-Anon Pennsylvania Area (610) 373-5237 Berks County Meeting Schedule
- Al-Anon/Alateen 1-888-4AL-ANON (1-888-425-2666) Mon- Fri, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Other Internet Resources
- PA Stop
- Twenty Four Hour Addiction Helpline
- Heroin: What Parents Need to Know
- National Institute on Drug Abuse – Heroin
- Overdose Free PA
- Pennsylvania Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs
- SAMSHA – Treatments for Substance Use Disorders
- The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
Others You Can Seek for Help
Clergy, Employee Assistance Provider, Family member, Friend, Physician, School Personnel, etc.