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Heroin Abuse

Heroin Abuse
Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs in the United States. It causes uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that often lead to relapse and overdose. Unfortunately, the use of heroin has been on the rise in Georgia, especially around the metro Atlanta area in what is known as the Heroin Triangle.

Heroin Abuse in Georgia

Because heroin is processed from morphine, it activates opioid receptors within the brain. When this happens, users feel intense surges of euphoria and relief from all pain due to increased dopamine. As time goes on, tolerance will increase and the body needs more and more heroin to reach those same effects and keep withdrawal symptoms at bay.

Heroin use has increased significantly in the Atlanta area, especially amongst people ages 18-25.

  • In 2018, over 60% of overdoses were caused by opioids.
  • There were 300 deaths due to heroin overdose.
  • In the Atlanta area, 4.3% of people admitted to treatment centers were heroin abusers.

Stories of Recovery

Though heroin may be an addictive drug that is difficult to overcome alone, there are many success stories from people who found treatment.

Physical Signs of Use

The physical effects of heroin are often more noticeable than other drugs. It takes a toll on the body, especially for users that inject heroin. Most of these will happen after continued use, however, sharing needles can increase the risk of infection and skin problems.

  • Track Marks
  • Collapsed Veins
  • Skin Infections

Other signs of use will include:

  • Lethargic
  • Pinpoint Pupils
  • Itching
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Drug Paraphernalia

Symptoms of Heroin Abuse

Heroin abuse changes a lot about a person’s life. Not only does their physical appearance change, but oftentimes their entire existence revolves around the drug.

  • People who abuse heroin will end up neglecting responsibilities in the home or other areas of life such as work.
  • Personal hygiene often declines.
  • Academic and work performance may decline.
  • The person may experience sudden financial problems and need to borrow or steal money.
  • They may begin to lie or act secretive.
  • Heroin users may wear inappropriate clothing for the weather such as long sleeves in the summer.
  • Users may struggle with severe withdrawal symptoms that lead to relapse and overdose.
Signs of Heroin Use

What is Withdrawal Like?

Depending on how long someone has used heroin and the degree to which it was used, the severity of withdrawal may vary. Symptoms can be broken into mild, moderate, or severe.

Again, the timeline for withdrawal during heroin detox depends on each person and their history of use. The typical length of withdrawal begins anywhere from 6-12 hours after the last dose and can last up to 5-10 days. Residual symptoms may be felt for some time after the detox period.


  • Mild: Nausea, abdominal cramping, chills, muscle aches, and sweating.
  • Moderate: Vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, tremors, and fatigue.
  • Severe: Anxiety, depression, insomnia, impaired respiration, difficulty feeling pleasure, and cravings for heroin.


Seeking professional help for heroin addiction is critical. Because the drug is so addictive and causes unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, people who try to get sober may relapse. This is dangerous as users often take the same amount of heroin they were using before, even though their bodies can no longer tolerate that amount. Overdose and death are very real possibilities for individuals who relapse.

Individual and Group Therapy

Whether inpatient or outpatient, most treatment programs are going to incorporate one-on-one therapy sessions and group counseling. Individual therapy is going to give clients a chance to work with their assigned therapist. They might take part in designing a treatment program that fits their needs as well as addressing underlying conditions. When working with a therapist, clients can build a relationship with someone they trust and delve deeper into trauma and mental illnesses causing the addiction.

Group therapy is also beneficial for individuals recovering from heroin addiction. Not only can they create meaningful connections with people just like them, but they can work with peers to develop healthier habits and coping mechanisms.

Group Therapy


Withdrawal and cravings are going to be the most difficult part of heroin addiction treatment. One of the ways these symptoms can be managed is through medication.

  • Buprenorphine: This medication can prevent someone from experiencing withdrawal as it attaches to opioid receptors within the brain and activates them.
  • Naltrexone: Minimizes cravings and can prevent someone from feeling pleasurable effects of heroin.
  • Suboxone: Combination of naltrexone and buprenorphine. Can minimize discomfort of withdrawal and block pleasure felt from heroin.

Georgia Heroin Resources