Heroin overdose: FAQs

Published by John Gillen | Last updated: 19th December 2023 | All Sources


Clinically Reviewed by Dr. Olalekan Otulana (Advanced Practitioner)

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All information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.
Last Reviewed: 14th December 2023

Do you know what Heroin is?

This opioid drug made from morphine is described by drugabuse.gov as “a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants”.

It can be a white or brown loose powder and is usually smoked, snorted, or injected after being dissolved in water. Heroin is highly addictive as people who use it regularly can quickly build up a tolerance meaning they need higher or more regular doses to achieve their desired effect.

Heroin overdose FAQs

If someone is taking heroin for the first time, they’re likely to feel very dizzy or even vomit. Talktofrank.com explains that people take heroin to feel euphoric, sleepy, happy, or relaxed as it can block the ability to feel pain, giving a numbing effect due to its morphine content.


What effect does Heroin have on you?

Heroin binds to receptors in the brain to release dopamine, however, if you were to abuse heroin regularly over a long period of time, your brain won’t naturally produce dopamine as it once did; this makes you feel as though you constantly need the substance.

Overdosing on heroin can prove fatal because the drug causes your respiratory system to slow down so much that it can stop.


How can you tell if someone’s addicted to heroin?

As with most addictions, the user will become quite good at hiding their substance abuse. But as time goes on and the addiction worsens, it will become increasingly difficult to hide the reality.

If you suspect that someone you care about could be addicted to heroin, there are some common signs to look out for. These include slurred speech, depression, agitation, drowsiness, needle marks, runny nose or nose sores, constipation, memory problems, or a reduced sense of pain.

You may also notice that they’re having problems at work or school, they’re engaging in risky or dangerous behaviour, there’s a change in their appearance or a decline in personal hygiene, they’re displaying unusual behaviour such as secrecy or aggression, or they’re suddenly experiencing money issues like asking for more money without any reasonable explanation.


How can I identify a heroin overdose?

Warning signs of a heroin overdose include the following – you should be able to notice many of these symptoms happening simultaneously:

  • Blue-coloured skin, especially on the lips and under the nails
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Dilated pupils
  • Weak pulse
  • Convulsions
  • Lapsing in and out of consciousness
  • Falling into a coma
  • Dry mouth

At this stage, you should try and speak to the user to find out the amount of heroin that has been consumed so that when you seek medical attention, you can report it. If they have taken heroin with additional drugs such as benzodiazepinesamphetamines or cocaine there is a risk of fatality and central nervous system failure, and you should seek medical attention immediately.


How can I help a victim of a heroin overdose?

Firstly, try to determine the amount of heroin they have consumed and keep them conscious. Check for breathing and sounds of laboured breathing. If you have been trained to give the user naloxone, a drug that helps to reverse the effects of opioids, then do so, as it will take at least 30 minutes to take effect.

It is always difficult to get someone to admit that they have a drug addiction, but if you have witnessed a friend or loved one suffer a heroin overdose, or have had one yourself, you should consider rehab. We can help at Cassiobury Court with our rehabilitation programmes to help you live a life free from heroin.


How is heroin addiction treated in rehab?

Here at Cassiobury Court, we have specific treatment programmes to help you recover from an addiction to heroin. These treatments focus on both the psychological and physical dependencies on the substance.

We will normally recommend drug detoxification to remove the toxins from your body, it’s likely that detox will result in withdrawal symptoms for which you should be prepared as they can last up to two weeks.

Our expert team are there to help you throughout this process and can administer prescribed medication to ease the withdrawal symptoms.

In addition to detox, some other therapies we may offer on a drug rehab programme could include relapse prevention, cognitive behavioural therapy, dialectical behavioural therapy, individual, group, or family counselling, and stress management.

Our team can help you to understand the underlying reasons for what may have caused your heroin addiction.

Just knowing the reasons behind your addiction, can be invaluable in helping you to overcome it and avoid a potential heroin overdose.


I’m checking into rehab following a heroin overdose: what do I bring with me?

If you are staying with us at Cassiobury Court, you’ll be taking part in lots of mindful therapy activities as part of your treatment, so it is important to pack accordingly. Bring comfortable clothing, lounge and nightwear, and comfortable shoes.

You will be able to bring your own toiletries but ensure that they do not contain alcohol. We also recommend bringing photos of family and friends and other items to make you feel relaxed.


Can I purchase any medicines?

We will be given all the details of prescribed medications by your GP. Any medication given to you as part of your detox will be supplied by us for your personal safety. If you attempt to purchase medications or alcohol during your stay, either online or in-person, your treatment contract with us may be terminated, so it is important that you follow instructions carefully and stay on track with your treatment.


Can I have visits from friends and family?

Family members visiting relative in rehab

Of course – we want your stay to be as rewarding as it can be, and family visits really help with boosting motivation.

Visits usually take place on Sunday afternoons, and you can also speak with our team about going out with your family during visiting times for a coffee or walk around the area close to the centre.

John Gillen

John Gillen - Author Last updated: 19th December 2023

John Gillen is a leading addiction treatment expert with over 15 years of experience providing evidence-based treatment methods for individuals throughout the UK. John also co-authors the book, The Secret Disease of Addiction, which delves into how the addictive mind works and what treatment techniques work best.

Dr. Olalekan Otulana (Advanced Practitioner)

Dr. Olalekan Otulana (Advanced Practitioner) - Medical Reviewer - Last Reviewed: 14th December 2023

Dr. Olalekan Otulana MBChB, DRCOG, MRCGP, DFSRH, FRSPH, MBA (Cantab)

 Dr Otulana is a highly experienced GP and Addiction Physician. He has a specialist interest in Substance Misuse Management and he has a wide range of experience in the assessment, management (including detoxification) and residential rehabilitation of clients with various drug and substance addiction problems.  His main aim is to comprehensively assess patients with addiction problems and determine their treatment needs for medical detoxification treatments and psychological interventions. He is also experienced in managing patients who require dual drug and alcohol detoxification treatments.

A strong healthcare services professional with a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) degree from Cambridge University Judge Business School.