Understanding the Facts about Heroin Heroin is an opioid that is highly addictive. Derived from the poppy plant, heroin is typically used for its euphoric effect. In the U.S., heroin dependence is at an all-time high. The nation's epidemic level of addiction to prescription opioid medications (painkillers) has given rise to use of heroin as a less expensive, more readily accessible substitute. Impact on the Brain Whether injected, inhaled or smoked, heroin enters the brain rapidly, triggering the same chemical response associated with intense pleasure as well as survival itself. Prolonged use of increasingly higher doses of heroin changes the brain so that it functions more or less normally when the drug is present and abnormally when the drug is removed. Signs of heroin use include: Euphoria Drowsiness Impaired mental functioning Slowed down respiration Constricted pupils Overdose Risk The strength of heroin is unpredictable because other substances are typically added to increase volume or enhance potency. Heroin is one of the most frequently reported drugs by medical examiners in drug abuse deaths. Signs of heroin overdose include: Shallow breathing Pinpoint pupils Convulsions Coma Heroin addiction treatment Individuals who are dependent on heroin face unique challenges that can undermine addiction treatment. Going through heroin withdrawal feels like having a terrible case of the flu. Nausea, body ache, fever and fatigue are common withdrawal symptoms. Anxiety, depression, restlessness and irritability are often part of the picture as well. Treatment dropout rates are high, and if the heroin-addicted person relapses, overdosing is likely—and often deadly. Because of the unique challenges in addressing heroin addiction, and because of the addict's vulnerability to overdose and accidental death, the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation developed COR-12®, a specialized treatment approach that includes the use of certain medications, extended continuing care and close monitoring for medication use.