Causes of Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction is a serious condition that can severely impact people’s lives. To learn more about the causes of heroin addiction, read on.

Understanding Heroin Addiction

Most people focus on drug abuse with a narrow lens. Much of the attention target the person with the substance abuse problem, but the truth is that drug abuse is everyone’s problem. Drug addiction affects society as a whole, and we all influence drug abuse statistics. What’s even more essential is that we are also part of the solution.

Drug abuse is not a lack of self-control or a moral failing. Rather, drug abuse, also known as substance abuse or substance use disorder (SUD), is a pattern of substance use resulting in negative consequences. Despite these negative consequences, the person with the substance use disorder continues to do drugs.1


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What is Drug Abuse?

The American Psychological Association (APA) recognizes drug abuse as a disease. Under their current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, known as the DSM-5 manual, substance dependence qualifies as:

A cluster of cognitive, behavioral, and physiological symptoms indicating continued use of a substance despite significant substance-related problems. There is a pattern of repeated substance ingestion resulting in tolerance, withdrawal symptoms if use is suspended, and an uncontrollable drive to continue use.2

In short, substance abuse means a person continues to use drugs, even when drug use ruins their lives.

Heroin Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

Heroin and opioid addictions often occur alongside other disorders. Addiction commonly coexists with certain mental disorders, the most common of which are depression and specific phobias.2
Other comorbid disorders may include anxiety, mood disorders, antisocial personality disorder, and schizophrenia.3

Causes of Heroin Addiction

Many people wonder, “What causes the addiction of heroin?” Since each individual is different, saying that there is only one heroin addiction cause is impossible. In fact, there are generally several different factors that play a role in an individual’s heroin addiction.

The CDC causes of heroin addiction are a great resource to reference, but not everyone will relate to the suggestions on that list of causes for heroin addiction. In general, some of the leading causes of heroin addiction include genetic causes of heroin addiction, physical causes of heroin addiction, and psychological causes of heroin addiction.

Genetic Causes of Heroin Addiction

Some genetic and physiological reactions are associated with the increased use of, abuse of, and addiction to heroin. Additionally, poor health, illnesses, or injuries can be related to the misuse of heroin and other opioid drugs. Moreover, personality characteristics, such as cynicism or anger towards oneself, may also be associated with the misuse of heroin.

Physical Causes of Heroin Addiction

Individuals who experience high levels of chronic pain may be more likely to misuse heroin. Since heroin is addictive, using heroin or other types of drugs can influence an individual’s likelihood of misusing heroin.4

Psychological Causes of Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction causes can also include comorbid disorders, like mental health disorders. Some of the mental health disorders that are considered potential causes of addiction include depression, anxiety, impulsivity, suicidal ideations, and a history of alcohol use or other drug abuse.4
Also, those who have experienced discrimination, felt peer-pressured, engaged in delinquent behaviors, gone to jail, spent time in detention centers, or can easily access heroin may be more likely to use heroin as well.

Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

There are several signs and symptoms of heroin addiction. While each individual’s experience will be different, there are several behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial symptoms of heroin addiction.

Heroin Addiction Diagnosis and Withdrawal

causes of heroin addiction
It is important to understand the symptoms of withdrawal for many reasons. Heroin addiction symptoms play a role in the process of getting a diagnosis. They help professionals understand the extent of people’s heroin addictions as well.

How Is Heroin Addiction Diagnosed?

The process of being diagnosed with a heroin addiction often starts with a thorough evaluation that is conducted by a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. Additionally, blood tests, urine tests, and other exams may be used to assess the extent of the drug abuse. However, these lab tests are not diagnostic tests for addiction.6

Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal

Every person’s experience is different, but withdrawal typically inflicts both early and late withdrawal symptoms. The onset of withdrawal symptoms generally occurs between eight and twenty-four hours after the last use. On average, these symptoms can last anywhere from four to ten days. In some cases, these symptoms can last for weeks on end.

Typically, the first symptoms to appear include anxiety, aches, spasms, insomnia, sweating, and nausea. Even more psychological and digestive issues will occur after seventy-two hours. Some of the most common symptoms are listed below.7

Treating Heroin Addiction

Treating Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction treatment can take on several forms. For instance, individuals can attend a heroin addiction treatment center, use medications for heroin addiction, and go to a heroin addiction rehab center to receive help with heroin detox.


Since heroin addiction can impact people’s physical bodies in many ways, medications for heroin addiction can be used to minimize the intensity of heroin withdrawal symptoms. For example, lofexidine is often used to assist with opiate withdrawal symptoms.

Behavioral Therapies

There are many probable causes of addiction, so it is important to not only understand the causes and effects of heroin addiction, but to use behavioral therapies that will help the individual learn how to cope with the stressors of daily life. Some examples of behavioral therapies for heroin addiction include contingency management and cognitive behavioral therapy.

What Makes Us the Right Choice?

At Concise Recovery, our team of professionals can help you or your loved one navigate the process of recovering from and coping with a heroin addiction. Our expertise and knowledge pertaining to heroin treatment make us the best choice for those interested in recovery. Contact our specialists today to learn how we can help.