Can Heroin Withdrawal be Fatal?

heroin needle, spoon, and pill bottles on a table

Any person who has been addicted to opioids for a while is well-acquainted with the fear of withdrawal symptoms. Nearly everyone knows that heroin use is inherently dangerous. The specter of overdose and withdrawal are constant companions. Many are aware that withdrawal from alcohol or benzodiazepines can result in deadly seizures. What is not as clear is whether or not heroin withdrawal can be fatal. The answer is a bit complex, but it is safe to say that overdose presents the greatest risk of fatality for any heroin user.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms can include cold chills, muscle spasms, vomiting, and diarrhea. While these symptoms typically are not fatal a great deal depends on the person and the circumstances. Someone caught in the throes of heroin addiction generally is not taking good care of their health. This puts them at greater risk for any number of complications. Vomiting and diarrhea are both ways the body tries to rid itself of toxins. However, the side-effects of those symptoms include severe dehydration and higher blood sodium (hypernatraemia). Those conditions can lead to cardiac arrest and heart failure. (1) While deaths from heroin withdrawal are uncommon, they aren’t unheard of. Withdrawal puts extraordinary stress on the body. Combined with poor nutrition, personal hygiene and a lack of self-care makes it worse. Add just one more element like a congenital heart condition or a propensity for seizures and it is quite possible that heroin withdrawal can be fatal.

Another risk associated with withdrawal comes from the psychological effects. The physical agony is not the only potentially dangerous symptom of heroin withdrawal. Anxiety, depression, and anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure) can be intense during and following heroin withdrawal. Combined with the physical discomfort it can be too much to bear for some, making it a risk factor for suicide.

There is reason to be hopeful, however. The opioid use epidemic in the U.S. has led to innovations in treatment and an increase in accessibility of care. Tens of thousands of people recover from opioid addiction every year in this country. Regardless of how awful your story may be, there are people out there who will genuinely understand and are willing to help. Turning the corner from heroin addiction starts with the addict themselves though. It takes willingness and courage in equal measure to admit you have met your match and you no longer want to live that way.

A range of options awaits anyone who is ready to give up the fight and get off of heroin for good. The ideal for most people is to start with an inpatient medical detox. This is generally the safest and most comfortable way to begin. After detox, it’s best to attend a residential program for at least 30 days if possible and follow that up with a stint in a sober living of 6 months to a year. The ideal protocol may not fit everyone’s life or means, however, and there are choices to be made. Outpatient detoxes and Medication Assisted Treatment have grown in popularity recently and make recovering from heroin addiction within reach for even more people.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with heroin addiction, pick up the phone and give us a call. We are happy to provide information about treatment options or just advice on how to proceed.


How is Heroin Addiction Treated?

man outside searching on his phone for how heroin addiction is treated

The Heroin Epidemic

It’s no secret that heroin addiction has reached epidemic proportions in the United States over the last couple of decades. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found heroin overdose deaths increased by almost 50% since 2010. (1) There were 14,996 OD deaths from heroin in 2018 alone. That’s not including OD deaths attributed to fentanyl, which have skyrocketed to over 30,000 since 2014 alone. The positive side to these grim statistics may be that more people are going to treatment for heroin addiction than ever before. Demand for effective heroin addiction treatment has also driven innovation in care.

The Front Line Assault

The initial approach to anyone entering treatment for heroin addiction is medical stabilization. Anyone who has endured opiate withdrawal knows the terrible physical and mental discomfort it entails. Job number one is getting a patient stable and as comfortable as possible. This is ideally accomplished in an inpatient detox setting. Opiate detox protocols have become increasingly targeted and effective in recent years. Someone who detoxed years ago may well have an obsolete idea of what the process is like in the present day. A new class of medications is being deployed in an evidence-based model that delivers results. Buprenorphine (Subutex®) is part of most detox protocols, but only a part. Long-acting medications like IV Vivitrol may be used. Clonidine is a blood pressure medication that has been found to reduce adrenaline. By subduing the body’s “fight or flight” response, a patient can be made calm and more comfortable. Lofexidine is another non-narcotic medication that has proven effective at relieving heroin withdrawal symptoms. Certain antidepressants including Fluoxetine (Prozac) and Venlafaxine (Effexor) can also produce positive results. In some cases, anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) medications may be used. (2)

Supporting Early Recovery

After the initial week or so of heroin detox, most patients are ready to phase out of the medical detoxification portion of treatment. Research has shown dramatically better long-term outcomes for patients who remain engaged in treatment beyond the detox phase. (3) The options here vary from a longer inpatient stay to Partial Hospitalization (PHP, Intensive Outpatient (IOP), or a combination of these. An old adage in the treatment field says that there is no such thing as too much help for a problem, there is only ‘not enough’ and the research supports this idea. Heroin addiction is about more than chemical dependence. It is a complex ailment that involves the mind as much, or more than, the body. In order to have a fighting chance at recovery, a heroin addict must learn entirely new behaviors. These must become ingrained as habits they can sustain for a lifetime. Modern medicine has made total recovery more accessible than ever before. But there is no ‘easier, softer way’ that doesn’t involve dedicating oneself to a lifetime of recovery.

Holistic Recovery for Heroin Addiction

The term holistic is often misunderstood. This may be especially true as it relates to recovery. Simply put, holistic means treating the entire person, rather than just the symptoms. The detox phase of treatment is about relieving symptoms and allowing the body to rest. Little else can happen until a person is well enough to engage in therapy and activity. Effective heroin addiction treatment is a transformative experience. The detox phase is only the beginning. Assessments and accurate diagnosis of any co-occurring disorders usually follow. Then the real work begins. Individual and group therapy. Reading. Working on yourself becomes your primary purpose. Overcoming heroin addiction for a lifetime is a process. Luckily, many have followed the path before and they know the way.

The results any person gets from addiction treatment are proportional to the degree of dedication they apply. Change isn’t easy, but you don’t have to go it alone. Call us at Recovery By The Sea to discuss your options for care. A new way of living is just a phone call away.


Myths About Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addicts

At Harmony Recovery Group, we offer Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) plans that help patients to manage opiate cravings in the long-term and help them build a new life in sobriety. However, there are many myths and misconceptions about Medication Assisted Treatment that we would like to clear up. 

Firstly, many types of Medication Assisted Treatments exist, encompassing medications like Suboxone, Subutex, Methadone, Vivitrol, and Naltrexone. 

In our facilities we use Suboxone, which we consider the safest option for an assisted recovery. Suboxone works because it binds to the same receptors as opiates in order to reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. It binds 7x stronger than morphine. Because of this, patients are unable to abuse opiates with Suboxone because they will have no effect due to the binding effect on the receptors. 

Suboxone use reduces the risk of relapse significantly. Studies have shown that Suboxone reduces the risk of relapse by 3x compared with other forms of MAT such as Vivitrol and Naltrexone. And those forms of treatment have a 3x reduction in relapse compared to going cold turkey. Compared to non-medication assisted treatment, there is a 75% improvement in retention rates in sobriety programs. 

We spoke with Dr. Jill Thompson, Board Certified Doctor in Addiction Medicine and our Medical Director at our facility Midwood Addiction Treatment, to discuss the common myths and misconceptions around Medication Assisted Treatment. 


Myth: “Medication Assisted Treatment is Just Legal Heroin”

Beuprenorphine, the primary ingredient in Suboxone, is not heroin. It is made a different way. Narcotics like Oxycontin, Hydrocodone and other opiates are called Full Agonists whereas Buprenorphine is a Partial Agonist. Even though Buprenorphine binds to the same receptors that narcotics do, it acts very differently. For example:

1. You can never become tolerant to Buprenoprhine.

With any other narcotic the more you take it, the more you start to need. A dose that once created a feeling now feels like nothing at all because you develop tolerance to it.  With Buprenorphine you are always on the same dose and you never need to go up in dosage. Jill says, “For example, I had a patient who was on the same dose for 17 years. Unfortunately he passed away in a car crash a few years ago but we had never once changed his dose the entire time I treated him.”

2. Buprenorphine has what’s called a Sealing Effect

This means you cannot take more and more of the medication and get higher and higher. As Jill says, “Your receptors become saturated at a certain dose and that’s it. You can’t take more and more and feel euphoric like you can with opiates.” 

3. Unlike opiates, it is nearly impossible to overdose on Buprenorphine.

The only reported incidents of overdose have been when the medication was mixed with high amounts of other medications such as Benzodiazepines. There is no known case of overdose from Buprenorphine on its own. 


Other MAT medications, like methadone do not have this protection against tolerance nor the sealing effect, making them quite different from the safety of Suboxone. For example, with methadone, a patient can become tolerant and need higher doses and they can also take higher doses and become high. 


Myth: People Who Use MAT Aren’t Actually Clean

This simply isn’t true. What is your definition of “Clean?” Does it mean not getting high? Not getting altered or impaired? Being able to function in everyday life? If the answer to these questions is “yes”, then people on MAT are in fact Clean and Sober. 

Dr. Jill puts it this way: “There is a difference between addiction and dependency. Addiction encompasses having a physical and psychological craving for something that is so strong you will do anything to get it. Dependency is the same as if you were a Diabetic and had to take insulin everyday. You are dependent on your insulin for your disease. Yes, someone who is using Suboxone in their MAT program is dependent on it, but it is the same as any medication out there to treat chronic illness. You still have to go to meetings, you still need to do the work, but you have help in managing your condition.” 

Because Suboxone does not impair patients and the sealing effect means there is no way to take more and feel altered, they can get a job, they can concentrate, and they can function as normal. 

Taking a pill once a day for your medical condition does not mean you are not clean. 


Myth: Medication Assisted Treatment is a Lifelong Commitment 

Many people think that if they start taking MAT, they will never be able to get off of it. The truth is, with the exception of using it in Detox for a week to get off of drugs, Suboxone is not a short-term fix but it is not a life-long commitment either. You can come off of it if you want to. 

As Dr. Jill says, “People are very different and this is a very individualized thing. The phrase “longer term” will be different for different people. Some people may want to come off in a year or two, some people may want to be on it for the rest of their lives. At this point in time, we do not know of any reason people cannot stay on it indefinitely.” In fact, the FDA recently released a statement saying that they advocated using Suboxone for indefinite treatment. However, if patients do want to come off of it, they certainly can. 

If and when you want to come off the medication, it’s important to reduce the dose in a slow and controlled manner. When people decide to skip their dose at random or get off on their own, this creates a very high risk of relapse. If the medication reduction is down systematically with a trained professional, you should not run the risk of relapse. This is because with careful tapering, you won’t be feeling bad or noticing you are withdrawing from it. Dr. Jill suggests patients plan on committing 6-12 months to tapering off slowly and safely.


Myth: Suboxone Causes Precipitated Withdrawal

This is a common misconception among opiate users and is not true. Buprenorphine, the active medication in Suboxone, has been around for decades. But, in the early 2000’s Buprenorphine was approved for use in drug treatment. At the time its brand name was Subutex and it was purely made of Buprenorphine. 

Unfortunately heroin users realized that it could be abused and began to liquify it and inject it. In this manner, a user can in fact get high from Buprenorphine. But, it’s most important use to users was the drug’s ability to stave off withdrawal. If a heroin addict is going to run out of heroin they will typically go into withdrawal within 6-12 hours. With Buprenorphine (brand name Subutex), they won’t go into withdrawal for 2-3 days. 

When Subutex began to flood the streets for this purpose, the manufacturer changed the formula to include Naloxone. Thus, the combination was named Suboxone.  

As most people know, Naloxone is the medication that can stop an overdose. It works intravenously by immediately removing all the heroin left on the body’s receptors. However, Naloxone only works when injected. If Suboxone is administered orally, as intended, the small amount of Naloxone is inert and will not have this effect.

Now, if a heroin user tries to shoot up Suboxone, the Naloxone is fully effective. The user will go into immediate, precipitated withdrawal. This means that all the withdrawal symptoms a user would experience over 48 hours happens in the next two hours. 

No Need To Fear Suboxone

Heroin users are often afraid of Suboxone, thinking they will go into immediate withdrawal if they take it. This is absolutely false. If taken as recommended, orally, Suboxone will block cravings and prevent withdrawal symptoms. In the case that there is heroin in your system, the Suboxone will knock it off and bind to receptors instead, because it is much stronger. If you try to use heroin on top of Suboxone, you will feel nothing because the Suboxone binds that much tighter. That is why it is so effective in preventing cravings. The Naloxone in the pills is simply to prevent intravenous abuse on the street level. It is completely inactive in pill form. 

In the end, choosing the type of treatment for your needs is a very personal choice that should be made with the guidance of a trained professional. We hope this cleared up some of the myths around Medication Assisted Treatment. If this sounds like the right fit for you, or if you are seeking any type of substance abuse treatment, please contact us today. We are here to help. 


What Is Nodding on Heroin?

What Is Nodding on Heroin? | Recovery By The Sea

A person who is using heroin may seem to fall asleep for a very short time, sometimes only seconds, and then wake up again abruptly. This person may nod off in strange positions, such as with a needle still in the arm after injecting. Nodding occurs because heroin takes effect almost immediately after administration, especially with intravenous (IV) use. This effect is referred to as “nodding,” “nodding off,” or “being on the nod.”

When a heroin user nods off periodically, he or she is almost entirely out of control of their bodily functions and mental capacity. Being in this condition may increase the risk for of accidents resulting in injury or placing oneself in a compromising position.

Why Do Heroin Users Nod Off?

Heroin use can cause a user to nod off because it is a powerful central nervous system (CNS) depressant. Moreover, it can dramatically slow down many life-sustaining functions such as blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, and respiration.

Heroin also causes levels of dopamine to increase, which reduces anxiety. As CNS activity throughout every region of the body slows down, the user will become drowsy and can fall asleep or lose consciousness completely.

Heroin is a potent sedative that can make it challenging or impossible to remain awake upon administration. Nodding off on heroin is extremely dangerous and may be indicative of a much more severe condition, such as a life-threatening overdose.

The Problem of Escalating Use

Heroin use rapidly leads to tolerance, meaning that a person will eventually need to take increasingly higher doses more often to keep experiencing a high of the same intensity. Increasing the dosage, though, significantly increases the risk of overdose and life-threatening complications.

Once a person has developed tolerance and exhibits signs of addiction, such as compulsive drug-seeking behavior, they may not be able to make rational decisions about their drug use. At that point, they may not even be concerned with the fact that the amount of heroin they consume could kill them.

Signs of Heroin Overdose

When a person nods off on heroin, there is a very real risk that he or she may never wake up. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2017 alone, more than 15,000 Americans died from an overdose involving heroin. NIDA also warns that every day in the U.S., around 115 people die from an opioid-related overdose.

Heroin can quickly overtake a person’s system. Although being on the nod is a common side effect, an inability to stay awake and loss of consciousness is also a hallmark sign of overdose that can lead to coma, brain damage, or death.

Signs of a heroin overdose include:

  • Shallow or labored breathing
  • Dilated pupils
  • Tremors or convulsions

  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Bluish lips, nails, and skin
  • Profound respiratory depression

  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma
  • Death

Heroin use can also result in nausea and vomiting, itching, confusion, impaired reflexes, and uncoordinated movements.

What Is Nodding on Heroin? | Recovery By The Sea

A heroin overdose can be reversed through the prompt administration of the drug naloxone (Narcan), which detaches heroin from opioid receptors in the brain, halting the depressant effects. An overdose of heroin, or any opioid, is a medical emergency that requires swift intervention.

If you suspect someone close to you abuses heroin or another opioid, keeping an eye on them is important. If that person nods off and doesn’t wake up right away, has trouble breathing, or is exhibiting any other telltale signs of a CNS depressant overdose, call 911 and seek help immediately.

NOTE: Naloxone, or Narcan, is actually available over-the-counter as an injection or nasal spray. Having it ready to hand may save your loved one’s life.

Additional Risks

Because heroin is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the drug has no accepted medical use and remains unregulated. As such, its purity level can vary significantly, and it may contain other substances used as buffering agents. For example, fentanyl, a synthetic opioid up to 50 times more powerful than heroin, is frequently laced into the heroin or substituted for it outright.

Various other additives are often used to stretch doses of heroin or increase its potency, and the actual chemical makeup of the drug can vary from batch to batch or from dealer to dealer. This uncertainty makes it nearly impossible to determine how much even a single dose of heroin will impact the user. What’s more, a person may consume the same dose as their most recent use and suffer a more intense reaction due to the higher potency of the fentanyl laced into heroin.

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

If you or someone you love is encountering problems related to heroin abuse, such as nodding off, professional treatment is the best option for achieving abstinence, avoiding relapse, and sustaining long-term sobriety.

Recovery By The Sea offers comprehensive addiction treatment that includes evidence-based services essential to the recovery process, such as psychotherapy, counseling, psychoeducation, group support, and medication-assisted treatment. We employ caring addiction specialists who are dedicated to providing each client with the tools and support they need to reclaim their lives free from addiction to heroin, other drugs, or alcohol.

To discuss treatment options, call us today. Discover how we help people free themselves from the chains of addiction so they can experience the healthy and satisfying lives they deserve!

What Are Track Marks?

Track Marks | What Are They? | Recovery By The Sea

When a person shoots heroin, track marks, which are essentially scars, begin to develop around an injection site. Prolonged and repeated use at the same site increases the risk of a track mark forming. Injecting heroin intravenously is also called shooting.

When heroin is injected into a vein, its effects onset more rapidly and intensely than ingestion by other methods such as snorting or smoking.

Peak opioid effects occur within just seconds after administering the drug, but the duration of effects that result from this type of use are shorter-lived than with other methods.

When heroin is injected, use can also cause sores, abscesses, and holes at the injection sites. In severe cases, veins collapse from excessive use, increasing the chance that a needle will be injected into a muscle instead. This mishap can result in other complications, such as fibrous skin lesions around injection sites.

Recognizing Heroin Use

There is unique paraphernalia related to this type of heroin use, including hypodermic needles, cotton balls, or a spoon for liquefying the drug. Heroin injectors also use something that can function as a tourniquet and be wrapped around an extremity, such as a rubber band or piece of cloth, used to make the vein more obvious.

In addition to track marks, injection increases the risk of other serious complications. Because heroin also often contains adulterants and toxins, this can result in residue in the blood vessels upon injection. This buildup of toxic residue can induce damage to the brain, lungs, kidneys, and liver.

As noted, there are different ways heroin can be administered. Snorting or smoking is also popular among users, but, ultimately, many people who start out ingesting the drug in these ways advance to injecting it for the more intense high it provides.

Without a doubt, any use of heroin is dangerous, but intravenous use comes with the most risks by far. Heroin track marks are the scars that remain long after someone has shot up heroin or another drug, and they are often the result of chronic drug abuse in the same spot over and over again.

What Do Heroin Track Marks Look Like?

Track Marks | What Are They? | Recovery By The Sea

Recently developed heroin track marks appear as fresh lesions, and they resemble a standard puncture wound. They may also present as bruises or scabs. Most often, heroin marks manifest in the crook of the arm, but there are other places where heroin track marks may be spotted, including legs, feet, hands, and the groin area.

When heroin marks are found on the arm, they are frequently on the non-dominant arm, because its often easier for the person to administer the drug this way. However, if the person has someone else inject the heroin for them, the track marks could also be on their dominant arm.

Hands and feet have shallower veins and arteries than other areas, and these can be easily damaged, and scarring may be more likely. A person may sustain a lot of damaged or inflamed tissue or collapsed veins in the arms or their preferred injection sites.

At this point, they may resort to injecting in a variety of other locations around the body. People may also choose different places to administer heroin because it allows them to conceal the track marks more easily.

Older heroin track marks may begin to appear as discolored, raised, plague-like scars. Even after someone stops heroin use, scars of track marks may remain indefinitely. In some instances, there may also be infections at the site and ulcerous sores or holes.

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

The presence of track marks are a tell-tale sign of drug addiction and injection, and heroin is the drug that people most often administer in this manner. Heroin addiction is a devastating, life-threatening disease that is best treated by medical addiction specialists in a safe clinical environment.

Recovery By The Sea offers comprehensive treatment for addiction in both partial-hospitalization and outpatient formats. Our programs are designed to meet the unique needs and goals of each client and include research-based services vital to the recovery process, such as behavioral therapy, counseling, group support, and more.

We are dedicated to providing clients with the resources and support they need to achieve a full recovery, prevent relapse, and enjoy long-lasting sobriety and wellness! If you or someone you love is suffering from heroin addiction, contact us today to find out how we can help!

Is Heroin a Stimulant?

is heroin a stimulant

Is Heroin a Stimulant? – No, heroin is not a stimulant. Heroin belongs to a drug class known as opioids that interact with corresponding receptors in the brain and tend to have sedating, relaxing, and depressant effects. They reduce activity in the brain and body, as well as relieve pain and may induce intense feelings of euphoria.

Conversely, stimulants boost activity in the brain. They may also produce euphoric feelings, but rather than experiencing a sedating effect, users report feeling a surge of energy, wakefulness, and alertness.

How is Heroin Used?

Heroin is usually found as a white or off-white powder but can also come in the form of a less pure tar-like substance known as black tar heroin. Heroin is often injected into a vein, but it can also be smoked (‘chasing the dragon’) and added to cigarettes and cannabis.

Short-Term Effects of Heroin

Heroin’s effects are almost immediate if it is injected intravenously. In contrast, it may take between 10 to 15 minutes for effects to appear if snorted. Note that, no matter the route of administration, there are no safe levels of heroin use, and all heroin use is risky and potentially lethal because it is often laced with other drugs and harmful chemicals.

The effects of heroin vary between individuals based on several factors, including the following:

  • The person’s height and weight
  • The person’s overall health and metabolism
  • The person’s tolerance level
  • The presence of other drugs in the body
  • The dose consumed
  • The purity and potency of the heroin

Once heroin is consumed, the effects typically last between 3 to 5 hours, and include the following:

  • Pain relief
  • Intense pleasure (euphoria)
  • Relaxation and drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Decreased libido
  • Suppressed appetite
  • Confusion and clumsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Slowed breathing and heart rate
  • Nausea and vomiting

Heroin is most commonly injected intravenously using needles. In cases where needles are shared between multiple people without being sterilized in between uses, there is a dramatically increased risk of the following:

  • Hepatitis B and C
  • Tetanus
  • Vein damage
  • Infection
  • HIV and AIDS

Long-term Effects of Heroin

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “repeated heroin use changes the physical structure and physiology of the brain, creating long-term imbalances in neuronal and hormonal systems that are not easily reversed. Studies have shown some deterioration of the brain’s white matter due to heroin use, which may affect decision-making abilities, the ability to regulate behavior, and responses to stressful situations. Heroin also produces profound degrees of tolerance and physical dependence.”

Regular heroin use may also eventually lead to the following:

  • Bouts of intense sadness
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Difficulty conceiving children
  • No libido
  • Chronic constipation
  • Damage to the liver, lungs, heart, and brain
  • Damage to the veins, skin
  • Heart and lung infections from injecting
  • Increased tolerance
  • Financial, work, and social problems

Heroin Overdose

Heroin users can overdose if they consume a sufficiently large amount or encounter a particularly potent batch or a batch laced with an even stronger drug, like fentanyl. If you or a loved one is exhibiting any of the following symptoms after consuming heroin, contact emergency medical help right away:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble staying awake, or “nodding out”
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Itchiness
  • Irregular heartbeat or palpitations
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Dangerously slowed respiration rate
  • Bluing of the lips and fingertips (cyanosis)
  • Loss of consciousness

Naloxone, or Narcan®, is an opioid antagonist that detaches heroin from opioid receptors, thereby preventing or reversing an overdose. Fortunately, naloxone is carried by nearly all first responders and can be acquired over-the-counter without a prescription at most major pharmacies in the United States.

Heroin Withdrawal

Heroin is notoriously difficult to stop using because the body rapidly becomes dependent on its presence in order to function normally. Once the body is dependent, if the user attempts to quit or cut back their heroin use, highly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms will occur. Such symptoms usually start within 6 to 24 hours after the last consumed dose and may last for a week or more – the first one to three days are by far the worst.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms include the following:

  • Intense cravings for more heroin
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Runny nose
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression and uncontrollable crying
  • Insomnia and frequent yawning
  • Stomach aches and leg cramps
  • Goosebumps
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction is a devastating and potentially fatal condition that adversely impacts the lives of those suffering as well as loved ones. If you or someone you know is addicted to heroin, it is imperative that you seek treatment as soon as possible. Although not curable, heroin dependence is treatable, and people can and have successfully recovered and went on to enjoy long-lasting sobriety and happy, fulfilling lives.

Research has shown that the best outcomes are achieved when patients undergo a medical detox followed by long-term inpatient or intensive outpatient treatment and aftercare. The programs should encompass a comprehensive approach using evidence-based modalities such as psychotherapy, psychoeducation, counseling, and group support.

Our center employs certified medical professionals who specialize in addiction and administer these services with compassion. We can help restore sanity to your life and get you started on the path to long lasting recovery.

Please do not suffer another day. Call us now to find out how we can help!

What is Black Tar Heroin?

Black Tar Heroin | Recovery by the Sea

Black tar heroin is a specific kind of heroin that is much different in appearance than the more recognized powder form, which ranges from whitish to brown. Black tar heroin, as the name implies, is a dark, sticky, tar-like substance – moreover, there is an obvious physical difference between black tar versus powdered forms of heroin.

Black tar heroin is a less-refined form of heroin and is also commonly referred to as Mexican black tar heroin due to its primary origin being drug cartels in Mexico. Some South American and Asian countries have also exported black tar heroin, however, and it is frequently found West of the Mississippi River in both the U.S. and Canada. Large western cities such as Los Angeles experience significant black tar heroin use.

Because black tar heroin isn’t as pure as the powdered form, some users erroneously believe that it’s not as potent. It is just as strong as other forms of heroin, however, and this misconception can lead to an overdose, as the user assumes that they need more of the drug to experience the same high as regular heroin.

Effects of Black Tar Heroin

Heroin, as an opiate, mimics the same brain chemical naturally designed to control pain and enhance pleasure. Once heroin has reached the blood-brain barrier, it transforms back into morphine, which attaches to opiate receptors. The initial reaction to heroin exposure is euphoria.

Black Tar Heroin | Recovery by the Sea

The means used to administer heroin determine the speed in which the effects occur, but regardless of method, in a matter of seconds to two minutes, the user will experience a rush, followed by a feeling of warmth and euphoria. This response occurs because morphine is not a natural endorphin, and the messages sent through the body are very different and more powerful than a reaction to a natural endorphin.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), psychoactive chemicals such as heroin and other drugs can produce up to 10 times the amount of dopamine, a chemical in the brain responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward.

Because heroin use induces intense feelings of euphoria in users, this is by far the primary reason for its popularity. Other short-term effects include:

  • Heavy feeling in extremities
  • Clouded thinking/trouble concentrating
  • Flushed skin
  • Dry mouth
  • Contentment
  • Reduced anxiety and tension
  • Drowsiness
  • Apathy
  • Nodding off

In general, all heroin use results in the same effects. The main difference between black tar heroin and white heroin is the purity – black tar heroin is only around 30% pure, due to the faster, less refined process of making it. This process makes it cheaper to buy, but possibly more harmful in some ways.

Note: While white heroin is more refined and pure, it’s usually cut with other powders to keep the cost down, and these can include extremely dangerous and more powerful opioids such as fentanyl.

Anyone who uses black tar heroin will experience these effects, but unfortunately, these effects are also what makes the drug so addictive. Prolonged use of heroin increases the likelihood of an overdose or the development of other disorders and diseases related to its use.

Long-term effects of heroin use include:

  • Insomnia
  • Collapsed veins and damaged tissue due to injections
  • Infection of the heart lining and valves
  • Abscesses
  • Constipation and stomach cramps
  • Liver, kidney, or lung disease
  • Mental disorders
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Irregular menstrual cycles

How is Black Tar Heroin Used?

The most common methods of administration of black tar heroin are by smoking or injecting. In some cases, heroin can be snorted, but it’s not nearly as prevalent as other methods. Since heroin is easily dissolved in water, injection is particularly popular and is also the method that produces the most rapid and intense high.

Paraphernalia associated with injecting heroin include:

  • A spoon
  • Syringes
  • Aluminum foil
  • Lighters
  • Cotton balls
  • A belt to tie off the arm so that veins are more pronounced

People who smoke heroin use a lighter to burn it after setting it on a small piece of aluminum foil. They will then inhale the vapors from the drug through a small funneling object, often a tube.

Health Risks

Black Tar Heroin | Recovery by the Sea

The use of any heroin, including black tar heroin, is detrimental to one’s health. Injecting the drug can result in venous sclerosis, a condition that causes the veins to narrow and harden. This effect can make it difficult for a user to inject heroin into that same vein in the future.

Eventually, veins may collapse altogether, forcing users to inject the drug elsewhere on the body, even into muscles. Bacterial infection is another serious health risk related to the use of black tar heroin. Infections, such as necrotizing fasciitis, can spread rapidly and be life-threatening in a very brief amount of time.

Botulism, another disease caused by bacteria, can also result from black tar heroin use – in fact, most patients treated for this condition are heroin users. If left untreated, wound botulism can result in paralysis or even death.

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction is a devastating and potentially deadly disease that wreaks havoc on the well-being of the person suffering as well as those close to him or her. Treatment usually begins with a clinical detox, a process in which the patient is supervised around-the-clock by medical professionals while the body rids itself of toxic substances.

After detox, patients are encouraged to undergo long-term addiction treatment, which is characterized by an integrated, evidence-based approach that includes behavioral therapy, counseling, and group support.

You can reclaim your life, free from heroin addiction, and experience the happiness and wellness that you deserve. Contact us as soon as possible and begin your journey to recovery today!

⟹ READ THIS NEXT: What Is Nodding on Heroin?

List of Illegal Drugs

List of Illegal Drugs | Recovery by the Sea

Illegal drugs are those scheduled by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a controlled substance, having little or no medical value, and a high potential for abuse or addiction.

That said, there is much controversy surrounding the DEA’s decisions when classifying drugs – some wonder, for example, why marijuana and LSD, two drugs that are not known to cause chemical dependence are scheduled higher than notoriously more dangerous drugs such as methamphetamine and cocaine.

List of Common Illegal Drugs

Cocaine and Crack Cocaine

Cocaine and crack cocaine are extremely addictive stimulant drugs. Crack cocaine is more potent than traditional powdered cocaine and is often smoked rather than snorted. Long-term abuse can result in seizures, heart disease and cardiac arrest, stroke, overdose, and damage to the septum and surrounding nasal tissues.


GHB (Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid) is primarily produced in illicit laboratories, although the prescription drug Xyrem (sodium oxybate) is also considered to be GHB. GHB is most often used recreationally as a party/club drug but is also infamous for its use as a date rape drug. The depressant effects of GHB include cause drowsiness, unconsciousness, seizure, coma, and in rare cases, death.

Hallucinogens and Dissociative Drugs

Hallucinogens and dissociative drugs alter the user’s perception of reality and thinking patterns. This can include audio, visual, tactile, or emotional changes or shifts in the way a person perceives time. Some individuals may feel dissociated from their body or their environment.

These drugs include the following

  • Ayahuasca/DMT
  • Ketamine (Special K)
  • Khat
  • LSD

  • Mescaline (peyote)
  • PCP (Angel Dust)
  • Psilocybin mushrooms
  • Salvia


Despite its legal status in several states for medicinal and even recreational purposes, marijuana is still illegal on a federal level as well as in many other states. Although it is not known to be chemically addictive or cause withdrawal symptoms, it can become psychologically addictive and a hard habit to break.

Marijuana use can sometimes result in unwanted side effects such as anxiety and paranoia, and long-term excessive use can impact an individual’s motivation and affect social life as well as work and school performance.

MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly)

List of Illegal Drugs | Recovery by the Sea

MDMA is a synthetic “designer” drug that acts as both a stimulant and a psychedelic substance. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), its effects mimic a combination of amphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline. There is some argument among researchers whether MDMA is a stimulant drug with hallucinogen properties or a drug that should be placed in a class of its own.

Although MDMA is not considered to be chemically addictive, it can be habit-forming and is often mixed with other drugs including ketamine, meth, cocaine, and synthetic cathinones (bath salts.) This fact increases the risk of adverse health problems and overdose, which in rare cases can result in a dramatic rise in body temperature (hyperthermia) and organ failure.


Methamphetamine (meth) is typically found in powder form, while crystal meth resembles shards of glass or bluish-white rocks. Meth is highly addictive, and its stimulant properties can result in cardiovascular problems and death. Effects on the brain can include delusions, hallucinations, psychosis, and aggressive and violent behaviors.

Opium, Heroin, and Other Opioids

The effects of illegal opioids are similar to that of prescription painkillers, in that they produce a pain-relieving effect and euphoria. Opioids are synthetic versions of opiates, which are naturally-occurring compounds found in the opium poppy. Opium itself is illegal, while compounds contained within the dried latex, such as morphine and codeine, are available by prescription.

Illegal opioids include the following:


Heroin is a hugely popular and highly addictive illegal street drug that is derived from morphine. It is a potent painkiller and in large doses can cause heavy sedation and unconsciousness.

Heroin can be smoked, snorted, and injected intravenously. In addition to overdose and other physical and mental effects of addiction, heroin users who use or share needles are at high risk for abscesses, infection, collapsed veins, and blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV.


Fentanyl began as a prescription drug with limited use, and currently is indicated for the treatment of severe pain when all other methods fail, as well as general anesthesia for surgery. Illegal fentanyl, however, is made in clandestine labs, often in China, and sold on the street as heroin, oxycodone, or other less-potent drugs.

Fentanyl is roughly 50 times more potent than heroin and is involved in thousands of deaths each year in the U.S.


Carfentanyl is similar to fentanyl but 100 times more powerful. It is not indicated for human consumption and is only legal for use by veterinarians for the sedation of large animals such as elephants. Still, carfentanil is occasionally found cut into other street drugs and is responsible for a number of deaths in the United States and Canada.

Other illegal opioids include U-47700 (Pink) and fentanyl analogs. Also, Grey Death is a name used for a street drug that has have been found to contain U-47700, heroin, and opioids including fentanyl and carfentanil.


Rohypnol (Flunitrazepam) is a tranquilizer up to ten times more potent than the popular benzodiazepine Valium. The drug is available as a pill and users often crush the pills into powder and snort it, sprinkle it on marijuana and smoke it, or even inject it.

Like GHB, Rohypnol is famously used as a date rape drug – it is sometimes added to an alcoholic drink at parties and clubs unbeknownst to the drinker, thus rendering them incapacitated and paralyzed. They may be awake are aware of what is happening, but are powerless to move or defend themselves. They are also usually unable to fully remember the event just hours after it occurred.


Anabolic or “muscle building” steroids are synthetic versions of the male sex hormone testosterone. Some common names for anabolic steroids include Juice, Roids, and Stackers.

People who use anabolic steroids usually take them orally or inject them into their muscles. Steroids can also be applied to the skin as a cream, gel, or patch.

Synthetic Cannabinoids

Synthetic cannabinoids or synthetic marijuana are psychoactive chemicals with effects that often do not resemble marijuana at all. They are often sold as liquids for vaporizers or are sprayed on dried plants for smoking.

These substances can cause hallucinations, psychosis, aggressive or violent behavior. Two common names for these drugs are Spice and K2.

Treatment for Drug Addiction

List of Illegal Drugs | Recovery by the Sea

Regardless of a person’s drug of choice, if a person is chemically or psychologically addicted, he or she needs professional help. In addition to physical and mental health issues, extended drug abuse and addiction can adversely affect a person’s relationships, career, and academic goals.

Depending on the drug abused, some people require more intensive care, including a medically-supervised detox. Comprehensive, evidence-based treatments, such as behavioral therapies and counseling, help to heal the emotional and mental impacts of addiction while teaching individuals the coping skills they need to prevent relapse and enjoy long-term sobriety and wellness.

Our medical and mental health staff specialize in addiction and can provide clients with the tools necessary to achieve and sustain their recovery goals. Recovery from addiction is a long-term endeavor, but you don’t have to it alone. Contact us today to discuss treatment options and discover how we can help you begin your recovery journey!

We Accept Most Insurance Plans!