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Heroin Abuse Signs, Symptoms and Addiction Treatment

Heroin is an opiate drug that is derived from morphine. Morphine is found in the seed pods of Asian opium poppy plants. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, heroin is ingested in several ways, such as through injection, snorting and smoking. Regardless of the method of abuse, heroin addiction often occurs as a result of frequent use.

Heroin Abuse Quiz question 1

Google Trends: Searches for “heroin”

Throughout the US, searches for "heroin" are most frequent in the northeast region, where seizures of heroin are currently increasing.

Total number of opiate users

  • Global: 16.37 million (estimated, range 12.8 – 20.23 million) (source)

Signs and Symptoms of Abuse
Individuals who abuse heroin may exhibit a number of signs and symptoms. However, not all abusers will react to the drug in the same way. While signs and symptoms of abuse may vary from person to person, most people exhibit certain symptoms and behavior indicative of an abuse problem. Signs of heroin abuse include:

  • Behavioral changes
  • Hyperactivity followed by fatigue
  • Disorientation
  • Irresponsibility at work or school
  • Lying
  • Wearing long shirts and pants even during warm weather
  • Increased sleeping
  • Slurred speech
  • Track marks on arms or legs
  • Weight loss
  • Constant runny nose
  • Scabs or bruises due to picking at the skin

If you or a loved one shows any signs or symptoms of heroin abuse, give us a call at 1-800-943-0566 today. This helpline is staffed with expert advisors who can give advice on treatment options and can even help you find the best treatment center in your area.


Videos on heroin

Heroin Abuse Quiz question 2

Street price of heroin

United States

@ 0.1 pure gram

In the US, the street price of 1/10th of a gram of heroin varied substantially from 2000 to 2010, ranging from &779 in 2008 to $995 in 2010.

Effects of Heroin Abuse
Heroin can have a devastating impact on a user's body and overall life. Immediately after taking heroin, many users feel a "rushing" sensation of the drug entering the brain. Many people seek out heroin due to the quickness at which the drug enters the brain. Certain users of the drug also report the following effects after taking the drug:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Heavy extremities
  • Dry mouth
  • Severe itching

Heroin use can cause side effects on a user. While these effects may not be apparent during use, they can become an issue with prolonged use or after recovery from heroin addiction. Many individuals with a heroin problem will experience long-term effects, including:

  • Infection of the heart valves and heart lining
  • Liver disease
  • Abscesses and skin infections
  • Collapsed veins
  • Scarred veins
  • Disease of the kidneys
  • Increased chances of overdosing
  • Increased chance of contracting chronic diseases
  • Increased chance of contracting viruses such as HIV

Heroin Abuse Quiz question 3

Yearly deaths linked to heroin use

United States

Heroin is a potentially deadly drug: in 2012, over 3,600 deaths in the US were connected to heroin usage.

Percentage of workforce with positive drug tests for heroin

  • United States: 0.04% (2011) (source)

How many people are chronic heroin users?

United States

In the US, over 1 million people are chronic heroin users - a number that has held from 2000 to 2010.

Heroin Abuse Quiz question 4
Heroin Abuse Treatment
There is a large selection of treatment options available to individuals who want to stop abusing heroin. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, heroin addiction is considered a chronic brain disease. As researchers learn more about how to treat a brain disease such as heroin addiction, more treatment options have become available.

For many heroin abusers, an inpatient treatment program is an ideal option. Inpatient treatment programs are designed to help heroin abusers overcome a physical and psychological addiction to the drug. Inpatient programs often feature a detoxification period. The detoxification period can vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the drug abuse. Inpatient programs are also designed to help heroin abusers understand why they abuse the drug, as well as what they can do to maintain a sober lifestyle.

Outpatient treatment programs for heroin addiction are ideal for abusers who have already successfully completed an inpatient program. Outpatient programs provide abusers with support through a number of programs and meetings. However, unlike an inpatient treatment center, an outpatient center does not provide abusers with a controlled environment.

Many treatment programs for heroin abusers involve the use of methadone. Methadone is used as a medication due to its ability to block the receptors in the brain that constantly require heroin. Methadone is also used to help curb heroin cravings and lessen withdrawal symptoms. Other drugs, such as buprenorphine, are often used to help during the detoxification process. Buprenorphine can also be prescribed at a doctor's office.

If you feel you or a loved one needs help overcoming a heroin abuse problem, feel free to call our hotline at 1-800-943-0566 for advice on the best treatment center in town.

How many people have used heroin?

United States

In 2013, nearly 5 million people in the US reported having tried heroin at least once.

How many people used heroin in the last year?

United States

Over 600,000 people in the US reported using heroin over the past year in 2012 and 2013.

How many people used heroin in the last month?

United States, aged 12+

Recent heroin usage remains relatively uncommon, with less than 350,000 people in the US reporting having used heroin in the last month in 2012 and 2013.

Heroin Abuse Quiz question 5

Heroin Statistics
The number of individuals using heroin is alarming. While numbers do fluctuate from year to year, it is evident that heroin use continues to be a problem.

As of 2008, approximately 3.8 million people had tried heroin at least once.
In 2007, heroin addicts and abusers represented 13.6 percent of admissions to treatment facilities. On average, a heroin addict spends at least $150 a day supporting his or her habit. In 2006, heroin overdoses accounted for 164,000 emergency-room visits.

Average monthly spending on heroin

United States

Even among monthly heroin users, more frequent users will spend much more: $1,834 in 2010 for those who used 21 or more days of the month, compared to only $530 for those who used 4 - 10 days of the month.

Annual market size for heroin

The US has one of the largest heroin markets in the world at $27 billion, compared to only $20 billion for all of Western Europe.

Biggest national sources of heroin

  • Afghanistan: Nearly 80% of world supply (2010) (source)

Countries using the most heroin

Mouse over the map above to see which countries have the largest proportion of the population using heroin.

Amount of heroin seized

Nations around the world work to stop the spread of heroin. Select a year and mouse over the map above to see how much heroin was seized in each country.

Average size of a heroin seizure

In 2012, the average quantity of a heroin seizure was 65 grams of heroin.

United States DEA domestic seizures


Source: DEA (STRIDE)

The amount of heroin seized by the DEA within the US has ranged from 1,174 kilograms in 1991 to only 278 kilograms in 1986.

Typical legal penalties involving heroin

  • Heroin is a Schedule I substance in the United States, and is illegal. (source)
  • Trafficking in 100 to 999 grams of heroin comes with a federal first offense penalty of no less than 5 years in prison, and up to $5 million in fines. A second offense penalty, or a first offense with 1 kilogram or more of heroin, carries a sentence of no less than 10 years in prison.
  • Possession of heroin can come with a federal first offense penalty of one year in prison, and a state penalty of up to 7 years. (source)

Legislation and policymaking involving heroin

  • Kentucky has proposed legislation to charge heroin traffickers with homicide. (source)

Number of opioid overdose prevention programs using naloxone

  • 188 in the United States (2010) (source)

How much heroin is produced every year?


Around the world, over 500 tons of heroin was produced in 2013.

How much heroin is consumed every year?

2008: Metric tons of heroin consumed in different countries and regions

United States

In 2008, Europe consumed the largest amount of heroin overall, at 88 metric tons.

How much opium is cultivated for heroin each year?

  • 2013: 296,720 ha (global) (source)





Afghanistan is the largest national cultivator of opium in the world, growing 209,000 hectares of opium in 2013, or about 806 square miles.

How much opium is produced every year?


Laos, Myanmar, Thailand

Afghanistan's opium production peaked at 7,400 tons in 2007, and has recently resurged to almost that level.

How much opium is produced per hectare?

Afghanistan also leads the pack in efficiency of heroin production, beating out Laos, Myanmar and Thailand in kilograms of heroin produced per hectare of opium.

Quotes from heroin addicts

  • “I live in real fear that I'll relapse, and being so much older now, there's no way I'd survive this time around.” (source)
  • “My father died from addiction, we lost a cousin, I myself had numerous overdoses and helped prevent siblings from OD-ing…”
  • “Recovery from heroin addiction is almost a miracle. Because it is not only your body that screams for the substance. Your brain wants it too. Without heroin, emotional pain feels unbearable.”

Heroin Abuse Quiz question 6

Teen Heroin Abuse
Adults are not the only ones susceptible to heroin abuse. Many people believe teens do not know how to obtain drugs such as heroin. However, just like alcohol or marijuana, hard drugs and street drugs are not impossible to find. According to the National Criminal Justice Record Service, at least 600,000 individuals in the United States are addicted to heroin. While studies have shown that most heroin users are older, an increasing number of users are aged 18 and younger.

How many youth have used heroin?

United States

Heroin remains a substantial problem among youth, and millions of teenagers report having tried it - including hundreds of thousands aged only 12 or 13.

Many teens use heroin because of how accessible it is and because they do not understand how harmful the drug can be. For some teens, peer pressure or family problems may play a role in heroin abuse. However, there are treatment options available for teens who are abusing heroin. Inpatient treatment facilities, outpatient programs, group therapy and family therapy are all available options for recovery from heroin abuse. Call us today at 1-800-943-0566 to discuss how to help a Heroin addict.

Need Help Understanding Your Addiction Treatment Options? Call 1-888-747-7155.