Addiction is a disease.  Learn more…

What is addiction?

In the 1930’s, scientists first began studying the behavior we now call addiction. At that time, it was thought that people who became addicted to drugs were simply lacking in willpower and were morally weak. Because of this, addicts were considered to have a problem that was caused by bad choices. Today, healthcare professionals recognize that addiction is a health problem. Addiction is a disease. Instead of focusing on punishing an addict for being “bad”, now the focus is on treatment. Discoveries in the brain have led to a better understanding of how drugs alter the brain and the steps needed to battle addiction.

How do I know if someone is using?

Listen to hear some of the signs of heroin or opioid use.  Dr. Nancy Falvo, professor of nursing, Clarion University, and member of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania Board of Directors, discusses the potential signs of heroin/Opioid addiction.   Also pictured left to right is the Chairman of the Center, Senator Gene Yaw, and the Center’s Director, Barry Denk.

Addicts have stated that heroin doesn’t allow you to see the changes in yourself that are taking place.

Signs of addiction

  • Significant changes in behavior and personality
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Pupils get extremely small –pinpoint in size
  • Dark circles may appear under the eyes
  • Skin may be pale or ashen
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Withdrawing from family or friends
  • Becoming more secretive
  • Headaches
  • Increased pain
  • Inability to sleep; or altered sleep patterns
  • Financial problems
  • Going to multiple doctors
  • Missing more school/work
  • Wearing long sleeves in warm weather

Remember, there are often legitimate reasons for each of these symptoms.  Therefore, you must look at all behaviors together before considering a person to be an addict.

Helpful Definitions



An illegal and highly addictive drug processed from morphine, a natural occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of certain varieties of poppy plants.


Drugs with morphine like effects, derived from opium.



Any synthetic narcotic that has opiate-like activities but is not derived from opium.

According to the NIH, Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin as well as powerful pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, fentanyl, and many others. These drugs are chemically related and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain.

Opioid pain relievers are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor, but they are frequently misused (taken in a different way or in a greater quantity than prescribed, or taken without a doctor’s prescription) because they produce euphoria in addition to pain relief. Regular use—even as prescribed by a doctor—can produce dependence, and when misused or abused, opioid pain relievers can lead to fatal overdose. The current epidemic of prescription opioid abuse has led to increased use of heroin, which presents similar dangers.

Read more about understanding addiction:


The Nation Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.

Why Are Drugs So Hard To Quit

Understand the changes drugs cause in your brain


Let’s Talk Heroin

Sign up for the live Telephone Town Halls – A Commonwealth Crisis Series

Talk with Experts – ask questions, get answers!

What is a Telephone Town Hall?