How to Save a Life From Heroin Overdose: And Info on Detox Centers and Treatment

Heroin Coma VictimHeroin is a powerful and illegal drug that’s often mixed with other toxic chemicals.  Recently, Carfentanil (a large animal sedative never meant for human contact and/or consumption) has been mixed with heroin causing a large, growing number of fatalities.  Overdose is a real possibility with heroin and in many cases, a heroin overdose will result in death.  For a rare, blessed or lucky few however, they are given a second chance at life and survive what could have devastating for family, friends and loved ones.

Heroin is made from morphine which is derived from the poppy plant.  View “What is Heroin” to learn more about its history, properties and where it comes from.

Heroin Dependency Vs. Heroin Addiction

It would be incorrect to call heroin highly “addicting” since addiction is a disease and occurs in the brain however, it does possess properties that cause people to become dependent on it.  Anyone who uses heroin a couple of times will become dependent on it.  In other words, a heroin dependent who stops using heroin will experience withdrawal symptoms.  Hence, the body has become dependent on it and ceasing all use results in the body’s physical objection to your decision.  Other than the fear of withdrawal however, a heroin dependent feels no real urge or compulsion to continue using heroin.

Addiction Vs. DependenceHeroin addiction (as opposed to dependence) is the connection and compulsion caused by changes in the brain to repeatedly use heroin over and over again with no end in sight.  A heroin addict will become addicted the first time heroin enters the body and dependency will soon follow.  Thus, a heroin addict has to fight against the fear of withdrawal (the body’s physical objection to stopping heroin use) and severe cravings, urges and compulsions to continue using.  The degree of difficulty for a heroin addict to stop versus a heroin dependent is far greater.

Both, heroin dependents and heroin addicts can overdose.  In fact, using heroin just one time could result in an overdose.  Anytime there’s an overdose, death is possible.  We’ve about heroin withdrawal symptoms and Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) multiple times.  Below, we discuss heroin overdose symptoms.

Heroin Overdose Symptoms

heroin overdose symptomsThe warning signs related to heroin overdose may be overlooked at first glance.  But by knowing the symptoms and what to do in the event of an overdose, you may just be able to save someone’s life.

Those overdosing from heroin can experience pain – ironically, similar to the withdrawal symptoms they’ve been desperately trying to avoid.  Symptoms of overdose include dry mouth, low blood pressure, slowed or difficulty breathing, a week pulse, discoloration of the tongue, overly constricted (pinned) pupils, muscle spasms, discoloration (typically blue) of the fingernails and lips, disorientation, sleepiness, hallucinations, etc.  If someone who has overdosed is not treated immediately, they could go into a coma.  If they’re lucky, they may come out of it alive.  Sometimes, however, those who end up in a coma end up not being able to breathe on their own without the help of machines and/or die.

Heroin Overdose Treatment

NARCAN NaloxoneI want to state upfront that that this is NOT advocating the use of heroin.  We are simply sharing intervention techniques that could save a heroin addict’s life.  The most effective way to avoid an overdose is simply not to use heroin.  However, those that do should avoid using heroin when they are alone.  If you suspect someone in the midst of heroin overdose, you should call 911 or a poison control center immediately.  If a heroin overdose victim is caught right away, their life may be saved.

Heroin is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.  But combining heroin with other drugs can be even more fatal.  On another website, we’ve read advice that suggested that if one insists on using heroin to at least buy from the same dealer as it can prevent discrepancies in purity.  While this may minimize risks of overdose, this is no guarantee.  Dealers typically don’t put bundles together nor do they make the mixtures.

NARCAN (Naloxone) may also just save a heroin overdose victim’s life.  Thus, if possible, take classes on how to administer it and carry it around with you in the event you see someone in the midst of overdosing from heroin.  NARCAN or Naloxone can counteract the effects of overdose almost immediately and is given intramuscularly (by injection) or subcutaneously (through the nostrils).

The effects of Naloxone are sometimes so effective that it may send a heroin addict into immediate withdrawal.  Thus, monitoring is important.  For this and other reasons, it is typically better to administer NARCAN in a clinical setting however, we recognize that this isn’t always possible.  That said, not everyone is eligible to acquire Naloxone and whether or not the emergency kit is obtainable varies from state to state.

Detox Centers – First Step to Quitting Heroin Use

For those already using, dependent on or addicted to heroin, the best way to avoid an overdose is to get into treatment.  The starting point for most treatment is heroin detox.  At detox centers, you will likely be supervised in a medical setting and sometimes even provided with a synthetic opiate like Methadone or Suboxone or other medication to help alleviate heroin withdrawal symptoms.  Detox typically lasts 3 to 5 days and afterwards, you can consider other forms of long term treatment.

Addiction Treatment Centers, Drug Rehabs and Residential Treatment

National Alliance of Addiction Treatment Centers NAATCResidential, inpatient addiction treatment centers or drug rehab facilities may be an option for those with insurance looking to completely innovate and change their lives for the better.  Quality drug rehabs that offer inpatient treatment can provide what few other modalities can.  This includes fully monitored, regulated help by caring medical professionals, counselors and other staff who have dedicated their lives to giving back.  Many people at the best inpatient rehab centers are recovering addicts themselves and no exactly what you’re going through.

But be careful, the experience, skill and dedication of staff associated with addiction treatment centers vary as do their success rates.  Thus, it is vital to choose a drug rehab that has been prescreened by patient / consumer recovery organizations / communities.  For example, drug rehab members of the NAATC (National Alliance of Addiction Treatment Centers) must meet and maintain ultra high standards to obtain and retain membership.  To see a list of NAATC members, visit and our recommended addiction treatment centers.

Alternative Treatment Options for Heroin Addiction

Many long term treatment options exist for those suffering from heroin, opiate and/or drug addiction.  This includes medicine assisted treatment options such as Methadone, Naltrexone (Vivitrol and ReVia) and Suboxone; Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and the 12 Step Program, individual counseling, group therapy, IOP (Intensive Outpatient Therapy), etc.  View “Affordable Heroin Treatment Options” for more information.

Written and Published By,

William – Publisher and Founder of Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™
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