Picture of heroin paraphernalia

Heroin Addiction and Why Addicts Can’t Stop Using

Understanding heroin addiction can be baffling to comprehend.  Why would someone knowingly inject a toxic substance into their body? There is no question that heroin addiction in a son or daughter is painful for a parent to witness.  Pain is the predecessor to all addiction, whether it is physical, emotional or spiritual pain, it all starts with pain and it started somewhere. 

So many parents find this very difficult to accept.  Their kids attend church, play sports, have good grades, and go on family vacations.  Then one day, their child becomes a heroin addict.  What went wrong?  Why can’t their child stop using heroin?  Why did they start using heroin to begin with?  Rejection of this idea in these families is severe yet logical.  However, when they understand that every person has their own threshold for pain, that as unique as every person looks on the outside, is as different as they are on the inside.

Parents may not know what happened away at camp – bullying perhaps, at a neighbor’s or relatives house – sexual or physical abuse maybe, in school on a regular basis – being teased in front of the opposite sex and rejection, or maybe a young person was involved in or a witness to a severe accident where someone they loved was hurt.

As more and more information reveals itself about addiction, and especially heroin use, it has come to light that there is pain at the bottom of it.  When heroin addicts describe why they can’t stop using heroin, this is the general consensus:

Why Heroin Addiction is so Hard to Stop

Heroin Paraphernalia Picture1)   Many addicts who experience emotional and physical trauma when they are young gravitate towards opiates. The effect caused by heroin is  much more effective for pain than morphine. Heroin helps the pain of not being able to express unresolved grief.  It is the ultimate drug used to “check-out.”

2)   Heroin can be sniffed, snorted or injected, making it a versatile drug.

3)   The euphoria of a heroin high begins in the throat first, like a strange tugging feeling.  Then it travels to the stomach (some addicts will throw up here), then it flies up the scalp and cascades all over…very warm and the pupils constrict so things look “vivid and brighter.”  The feeling is like an orgasm turned inward magnified by 10,000, and many people shudder or collapse with the feeling…the typical “heroin slump.”  The feeling of the high, coupled with being pain free is incomparable.  Imagine an addict telling himself or herself they will never, ever have an orgasm again?   Would they want to stop?

4)   The ritual is addicting as well.  Coming home to the bedroom, locking the door, putting on music, getting the drug paraphernalia out, addicts are addicted to the ritual of use as well as the drug.  There is an anticipation that began before the addict ever gets home and in a sense, the using has already begun.  The ritual is a huge part of heroin use.

5)   When loved ones lay guilt on addicts, it enables the cycle of abuse to continue, giving more reason for using.

6)  Heroin is habit-forming.  Not just psychologically, but physically.  The body becomes adjusted and  dependent on these toxins being put into the body. Once a dependency is built, the body begins to experience heroin withdrawal.

7)   The withdrawal symptoms are excruciating and each time an addict starts to stop.  Symptoms include hot and cold flashes, body tremors, constipation, fever, aches and pain in the bones, and severe discomfort. Heroin addicts cannot bear the pain, think they will just use a little to get by and before long are back to square one.

Is Your Child Using Heroin?

The best advice any parent can heed when dealing with heroin addiction is to get help for them selves first.   Al Anon is one great place to start http://www.al-anon.alateen.org and has resources for the entire family.  Talk to other parents of heroin addicts and hear how they were able to let go and take care of them selves during these tough times.

Heroin is a nasty foe and requires firm boundaries and implementing a strict plan for detoxing that the addict is sure to commit to.  Be wary of using drugs such as Suboxone to get off the drug.  More information is being released daily about trading one addiction for another.

Find out if possible, what pain is driving the addiction.  Try to understand the addict’s triggers, speak to his doctor, and find out what is driving the addiction.  If you can understand the addiction and the descriptions listed above, you’ll be in a better place to offer aid.

26 Comments
  • [email protected]
    Posted at 07:29h, 07 May Reply

    Thank you Martha for posting this info. I share this info with other moms at the Al-Anon meetings. Thank you

    • Martha
      Posted at 12:31h, 07 May Reply

      I appreciate your comment, Celia. I’m glad to know other parents are getting to see this. Thanks for sharing!

  • Drew
    Posted at 23:21h, 30 July Reply

    Your piece was extremely informative and well written, addicts struggle on a daily basis, and as enjoyable as the high is, I would do anything to stop. It sounds crazy but there’s no more frustrating feeling in the world then to want to do the right thing and make your family members and friends proud and fail miserably day after day after day.

    • Martha
      Posted at 12:04h, 31 July Reply

      Drew,

      Thank you so much for your feedback. Your honesty about your struggle is heartfelt. Your comments will definitely help someone else who is struggling too. All the best, Martha

    • Wes
      Posted at 21:00h, 17 January Reply

      My nephew and his girlfriend been using drugs for nine years. I lost a lot of family and friends to the drug world. Holding my father’s hand when he took his last breath from meth. Tons of friends died from overdose or suicide and drive bye also death sentence for one for killing five people as well as another really close friend serving 18 years in prison. The wife and I saved my nephew’s and her life one night from a very bad overdose. He admitted to me about shooting up in the neck as well. He has been working the same job three years and on average spending 700 to 1500 a week on herion n hard telling what else. Need all the advice I can get please. This is the worst that I have ever seen in my life and God knows I seen way to much.

      • Howard Barker
        Posted at 08:25h, 18 January Reply

        Wes, I am sorry to hear about your situation and our prayers go out to your loved ones. I would begin by looking into local Al-Anon groups in your area to start finding some support for yourself. If your family member decides that they want help, there are lots of resources available. Depending on what part of the country you are in, there are a variety of different treatment programs available. If you have any questions on where to start once your nephew has decided that he wants to get sober, feel free to email me at [email protected].

        • Wes
          Posted at 09:49h, 18 January Reply

          Thank you very much for your advice . I know he has to do this for himself and don’t need anyone yelling at him Wich my sister don’t understand as well as my wife until today . My wife finally knows how bad it really is . I have been through hundreds of hours of therapy and councling myself in the past . I put God first now days and know who I am as well as my job in life . I am not a,quitter at fighting battles at all. We live in Osceola County Florida. I will take him to classes five times a,week if he wants. His girlfriend hits on guys and it’s because the drugs as well as never being treated like a lady should be treated and her mouth is unbeatable . Just disrespectful so to say . This is hard helping two people who say they love each other and will never split up . I just asked them to take the first step and then I will step in fully . I am power of attorney over my nephew as well so I’m putting a lot at risk. Change is scarry to people but I always say change is good if its for the better.

  • yellowly
    Posted at 18:50h, 11 November Reply

    what if the addict who is supposedly recovering rejects you or pushes you away? should i still insist? several times he asked for space

  • How to Avoid Relapse
    Posted at 13:51h, 16 December Reply

    […] […]

  • Yuna
    Posted at 06:48h, 19 April Reply

    I don’t agree with this at all. Past Trauma isn’t a prerequisite for use anyone can become addicted simply by trying other drugs first and being around that crowd. Getting high is not that great of an experience like this says. Also withdrawal is not excruciating its very very uncomfortable, mostly mental anxiety,agitation and craving. Its a strong physical and mental drive to continue using… the hardest part is just not being able to stop period.

    • Derek Free
      Posted at 19:39h, 19 April Reply

      Thank you for your comment, Yuna.

      Different people have different experiences with addiction and withdrawal. I know for myself, past trauma was not part of my story nor would I have considered withdrawal “excruciating”. Despite this, I do know that a lot of my friends who are sober did experience trauma themselves. Whether that made them more susceptible to addiction, it is not for me to say.

      And while the word excruciating can be perceived as dramatic, I do know that my urge to use when I was sick and unwell was extremely uncomfortable, both mentally and physically. The experience itself was almost intolerable, though, and coupled with the fact that I knew that there was one thing that could make me feel better it is definitely something I do not want to experience again.

      Thank you for reading!

    • Jono
      Posted at 13:15h, 21 April Reply

      Well you clearly haven’t experienced any form of opiate withdrawal have you? To say it is not excruciating and merely uncomfortable is sheer drivvle my dear. Withdrawing from opioids is agonizing but will vary in severity in regards to what opioid one is withdrawing from. Heroin withdrawal is not just uncomfortable, that is the most ridiculous thing i have ever heard. The runny nose, constant yawning, hot and cold sweats, stomach cramps, vomiting bile and diarrhea are the most simple symptoms and easy enough to deal with because they simply resemble the common flu. Any addict will tell you however that the worst symptom is the agony within the muscles and bones and the horrid restlessness within the legs that causes one to constantly kick out as though they are riding an invisible bike. This muscle pain and restlessness is what stops one being able to fall asleep as the constant kicking and pain of every movement is simply too unbearable. This sensation, primarily in the legs, can become so severe and agonizing that all other symptoms suddenly feel minor in comparison. Then of course comes the delirium as one lays freezing in a pool of sweat after days and nights of pain and no sleep. I could describe these things in greater detail and could also describe other symptoms that make withdrawal excruciating but i don’t think there is any need. You must also remember that along with these symptoms is the mental agony and desperation as the individual knows all too well that there is an instant cure available. This is what makes withdrawing near impossible…the only way one will succeed is if they have no ways or means whatsoever of obtaining any form of opiate because if the option is there then they will eventually give in.

      • Derek Free
        Posted at 13:26h, 21 April Reply

        Thank you for your input, Jono. As someone who has also experienced severe opiate withdrawal, it is not an experience I wish to suffer through again.

      • Jessica lyn
        Posted at 19:32h, 24 July Reply

        JONO
        YOU HONESTLY COULDN’T HAVE SAID IT ANY BETTER. ..THANK YOU

  • joe
    Posted at 15:01h, 18 July Reply

    This is the best explanation that I have ever read. It’s like you just described everything I’ve wanted to tell my mom and don’t have the words to say. She thinks I’m being selfish and don’t care about anyone and that’s why I don’t stop. It’s dreadful. I want to make her happy and proud for once and yet I never can!!

  • cecil
    Posted at 22:10h, 19 August Reply

    I have been struggling with heroin for 25 yrs. I have no licence,car,work, my teal children gone, no self worth..I have no way to pay for teal treatment. Only 5 day detox and it never works. I wish someone would stop thinking of money and help me. I could always pay back if I could just get teal help. I am 48 and I could help somehow someone or many. Please help me I will even go on csmera for free if I can get real help. I will do anything go anywere. Please I am in a bad place and I eant to live. I owe the dealer and this time I have no way of paying I am scared I just want a life without heroin. I can work this off somehow.

    • Derek Free
      Posted at 09:49h, 20 August Reply

      Cecil –

      There are options available for addicts in your type of situation. The fact that you still hold hope for recovery means it is still very much an option for you! If you would like help being pointed in the right direction, please do not hesitate to call our toll-free number (888) 357-7577. We wish the best of luck to you.

  • J
    Posted at 12:34h, 27 January Reply

    Thank you for this. Helped many people to understand why I keep relapsing. I’ve been to rehab 8 times and to no avail…still caught in it. I should’ve stuck with pills. I don’t know. Either way it’s horrible & im tired of hurting my friends & family. They keep blaming themselves for my drug use. It isn’t their fault 🙁 every day I wake up in hell.

    • Howard Barker
      Posted at 10:34h, 28 January Reply

      Heroin addiction can be a vicious cycle. I hope you find some relief and recovery. If you are actively using, detoxification may be an important step in getting off the heroin, after that throwing yourself into AA and working with a sponsor could be very helpful! Good luck, there is hope and you can break free!

  • Michele
    Posted at 22:28h, 07 August Reply

    I really liked what you wrote here. I’m in recovery trying my best. I didn’t do H in 5 months and I was on suboxene but then I slipped up a couple of weeks ago, it’s hard to let go of it all especially the ritual part I have the hardest time with and remembering how it feels but I’ve been an addict since I was 13 I’m turning 23 in a couple of days. I can’t do this anymore. My last run a couple of months ago took everything else that I had left and I lost everything. Starting from the bottom once again and hopefully the last time. I’m still trying to figure out who I am and where I belong on this earth but I have hope that I’ll find out one day and I hope it’s some time soon. Any one reading this that knows someone suffering from drug abuse please try and get them help or if ur at rock bottom and you don’t know what to do, get help. Who ever you tell we’ll see you as a strong women/man, that is able to ask for help when needed.
    Much love <3

    • Howard Barker
      Posted at 01:15h, 08 August Reply

      Thank you for your comment Michele! Stay strong and you are right – in recovery we put our arms around those asking for help!

  • M
    Posted at 18:45h, 12 February Reply

    My girlfriend hurt her back pretty bad about 7 years ago. The doctor put her on 40mgs of Percocet a day. Over the years she gained a tolerance and started stealing her mom and sisters medication, which they never noticed because they don’t take their whole prescription. Eventually she started snorting her pills and went up to 120 mgs a day. Then she started snorting heroin. That was this past summer. Since then she got off of the heroin and is down to 80mgs a day with no sickness. She slipped up snorting her pills a couple of times but did not go back to heroin. I always tell her if she slips up she can tell me and we’ll go through this together. We plan to reduce her pills by 1/4 a week. The only thing is is that she still has a lot of pain. The doctor said she has the back of a 65 year old and she’s only 30. How can we get her off these things if she is still suffering from extreme pain. Also should I go through her stuff looking for heroin or should I just trust her? I don’t want to be overbearing and push her toward her addiction but I also don’t want to be naive and let her addiction have its way with her. What do I do?

  • M
    Posted at 12:33h, 18 February Reply

    I just learned that she got the heroin from her ex from like 6-10 years ago and she has still been doing it with him from time to time. She never injected only snorted. They aren’t romantically involved. I told her it’s either him or me and she told him she needs to step back from the drugs and get her life back on track. What is a good replacement for Percocet? I want her off these pills but she has chronic back pain and will have it for the rest of her life. Is she stuck on these things? Looking forward to a response. Thanks.

  • Denise
    Posted at 23:02h, 01 August Reply

    I came to this website to find answers as to why someone would choose to keep using sadly a relative of mine died from a heroin over dose on 7/29/2018 she had been to so many treatment centers and had been given so much support by me and family and friends but after so many years of relapse her 8 children are all crying out why mommy why. I have always wondered when will she stop now I know

  • , one sad mom
    Posted at 03:20h, 22 August Reply

    My son is a recovering addict he has been on a medical program For 2 years. I often wonder if he will ever have a fulfilling life, children , wife, feeling of freedom from this horror show..
    He graduated college and has a full time job but my heart still aches everyday for what he has done to himself and the possible future that he has squandered. I want him to be free of this and live a happy and healthy life.

    • Derek Free
      Posted at 18:57h, 31 August Reply

      one sad mom –

      It is completely reasonable to feel this way, and we empathize with your struggle. Please check out a few of our recent articles in the Family category from other mothers who have struggled with similar situations regarding their sons, and how learning coping mechanisms and loving detachment helped them!

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