The Relationship Between Heroin Addiction and Weight Problems

April 16, 2020 , Agape Treatment Center

heroin addiction and weight problemsHeroin is one of the most commonly abused substances in the United States, and many are surprised to learn that heroin addiction and weight problems are related. According to recent studies, nearly 1,000,000 people reported using heroin at least once in their lifetime. The number of people recreationally using and becoming addicted to this substance rises every year. Unfortunately, people who regularly use heroin often become addicted and develop severe, long-term side effects.

Heroin use and addiction cause an array of symptoms and side effects. For example, one of the most common side effects when abusing this substance is the accelerated change in body weight. This is because of the dramatic effect heroin use causes on the gastrointestinal system. This causes a major increase and decrease in appetite and weight, due to appetite changes and nausea or vomiting. Keeping an eye out for these and other symptoms can help point you or a loved one in the right direction to get the help he or she requires.

What is Heroin?

Heroin is a highly addictive drug derived from morphine. Morphine is a psychoactive substance that causes mind-altering effects and is derivative of the opium poppy plant. Additionally, heroin belongs to the drug classed referred to as opioids. Opioids are extremely addictive substances and can cause severe withdrawal symptoms. Other opioids include some prescription pain relievers, such as codeine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone. The difference between heroin and other opioids is that there is no medicinal use for heroin. In other words, heroin is a drug manufactured and sold illegally.

Street names for heroin:

  • Black tar 
  • Brown sugar 
  • China white 
  • H
  • Horse 
  • Skunk
  • Smack 
  • White horse 
  • Boy

The color of heroin depends on how it is made and what it was mixed with. Since heroin is an illicit form of opioid, there are no regulations on how it is made. This means that illegal drug manufacturers will cut the drug with other substances in order to make it using as little money as possible. However, heroin is usually either a tan to brown color or a black sticky substance known as “black tar heroin”.  

Common Signs of Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction happens as the body establishes a dependency on the substance. After a period of time, the body requires more to generate the same desired effect. Once there is a tolerance for the drug, the individual who abuses heroin feels that he or she needs the drug to work at a normal level.

Dependency and tolerance quickly lead to the development of an addiction. For example, the person addicted to the drug becomes more concerned and captivated by getting and using the substance. Eventually, the individual will be incapable to restrain the amount he uses and how often. This is extremely problematic, due to the severe side-effects that heroin causes.

If you suspect that your loved one is using heroin, these are some common side effects to watch out for:

  • Sudden and rapid weight gain or loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Severe itching 
  • Excessive sleeping 
  • Periods of increased energy or euphoria 
  • Restlessness, inability to sleep
  • Wearing different clothing than usual (e.g. wearing long sleeve shirts to cover up track marks from IV heroin use)

Heroin is notorious for being one of the leading causes of overdoses in America. Because heroin is made and sold on the street, the purity of the drug is unknown to the user. This makes the potency of the drug extremely hard to determine without actually taking it. As a result, overdosing on heroin in common. 

If you or a loved one are addicted to heroin, look out for these common symptoms of heroin overdose:

  • Bluish lips and/or nails 
  • Disorientation
  • Shallow breathing or difficulty breathing 
  • Delirium 
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Muscle spasms 
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Drowsiness 
  • Weak pulse 
  • Coma 

If you or a loved one experiences any of the above symptoms, contact 911 immediately. Heroin overdoses are often fatal unless intervened by medical professionals. 

Heroin Addiction and Weight Problems 

While there are many side effects of heroin addiction, one of the most common is a sudden and rapid change in weight. Heroin is known for causing severe adverse gastrointestinal effects. People addicted to heroin often lose weight because of the substance’s ability to suppress appetite, as well as many other bodily functions. Oftentimes, people addicted to heroin are dangerously thin. In addition to the drug’s appetite suppressing qualities, this drug provokes people to completely neglect all of their other needs. Suddenly, heroin becomes the addicted individual’s top (and only) priority. Additionally, most of the addicted individual’s money will go towards supporting their addiction. As a result, it’s easy to see how heroin addiction leads to weight problems – buying food may not even be in their realm of possibility.

In addition to suppressing one’s appetite, heroin also causes an individual’s pituitary gland to work improperly. The pituitary gland is responsible for hormone production and release, which is important for maintaining one’s appetite. Additionally, heroin reduces the production of substances in the digestive tract that is responsible for triggering feelings of hunger. Therefore, when a person is lacking the ability to actually feel hunger, weight loss will happen at a rapid rate. In some cases, heroin abuse can even co-occur with an eating disorder.

Heroin abuse is also known for causing severe nausea. When someone is constantly nauseous, they most likely will be repulsed by the idea of eating. However, heroin users who also abuse other substances like marijuana may experience weight gain. This is because marijuana, and some other drugs, can actually alleviate nausea from heroin use. Additionally, marijuana can stimulate a person’s appetite, leading to weight gain. Therefore, weight gain is usually only prevalent in heroin users who are abusing additional substances.

Treatment for Heroin Addiction and Weight Concerns

Heroin addiction is a serious disease of the mind and body, therefore, the treatment for it should be taken just as seriously. If you or a loved one are currently addicted to heroin, please seek professional help as soon as possible. In today’s society, opioid overdoses have become a leading cause of death. However, recovery is possible for anyone who wants it. With the combination of support, personal dedication, and professional addiction treatment, heroin addicts often recover and go on to live rewarding and successful lives. If you want to stop using heroin today, give us a call and allow us to help you begin your life in sobriety.