Life Expectancy of a Heroin Addict

Life expectancy of a heroin addict

Drug overdoses have become the number one cause of death among the population under 55. Heroin is a hazardous drug and has the potential to lead to severely serious, life-threatening health consequences. The most severe effects that consequences will cause are:

  • Overdose
  • Infection
  • Death

Heroin is well known to lead to severe addiction problems and additional mental health issues. It is vital that individuals who are either considering using heroin or are currently abusing the substance be utterly aware of the risks involved. 

Overdosing and heroin

Overdosing is one of the if not the most severe side effects when it comes to abuse of heroin. Overdosing does not necessarily always lead to death; it can lead to severe brain damage or other life debilitating health problems. Furthermore, individuals who abuse heroin are at a significantly high risk of developing severe infections such as:

  • Hepatitis C
  • HIV

These two diseases can be deadly to an individual, possibly leading to additional health complications such as liver disease. Lastly, individuals who abuse heroin are at risk of performing or being involved in violent acts or accidents. 

Understanding the American life expectancy 

According to the CDC, in 2020, life expectancy at birth was 77.0 years for the total U.S. population—a decrease of 1.8 years from 78.8 years in 2019. For males, life expectancy decreased by 2.1 years, from 76.3 in 2019 to 74.2 in 2020. For females, life expectancy decreased 1.5 years from 81.4 in 2019 to 79.9 in 2020.

How does life expectancy reduce?

The life expectancy of an individual addicted to heroin currently stands at 52 years old, although the number can fluctuate from person to person. Several factors can negatively impact an addict’s life expectancy, which can be seen to include:

  • Contracting viral diseases
  • Fatal overdoses
  • Suicide

The average life expectancy of a heroin addict is 25.8 years less than the average life expectancy of the average U.S. citizen, which is 77.8 as of 2020. 

The average heroin user will begin experimenting with the substance at 24. When an individual starts abusing at such a young age, the individual becomes much more susceptible to developing lifelong health complications. 

Factors that impact the life expectancy of a heroin addict

Various factors can impact the life expectancy of individuals who abuse heroin. Whilst many of these factors are directly caused by the substance, various factors outside of the substance can reduce an individual’s life expectancy. 


Various studies have found that men were seven times more likely to die from a heroin overdose than their peers. However, the stats become worse when it comes to women. They were 17 times more likely to die from heroin-addicted drugs than their peers. 

The studies found that constant heroin users lost an average of 44 years of potential life due to drug addiction. 


There have become massive issues within the community of individuals who abuse heroin contracting HIV, which eventually progresses to AIDs due to inadequate health care. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in 10 HIV diagnoses in the U.S. can be attributed to injected drug use.

Viral infections such as HIV and Hepatitis C are transmitted via blood or other bodily fluids; heroin addicts, once their addiction has taken complete control, will not think about their safety before injecting with possibly a used needle. The CDC notes that HIV can live inside a needle or syringe for up to 42 days. Furthermore, when high, individuals often carry out acts without considering the consequences, such as having unprotected sex. 

Chronic liver disease

Individuals considered long-term heroin addicts could begin developing liver diseases that have been heavily connected to hepatitis B and C. Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that heavily affects the liver’s ability to function appropriately. 

Hepatitis B and C is a very contagious virus that can be easily transmitted through sources such as:

  • Water
  • Food
  • Close contact with others

Fatal overdose

Fatal overdoses are an expected negative impact on heroin addicts, severely reducing the individual’s life expectancy. Heroin overdoses alone are not likely; however, addicts are known to mix a variety of substances. Mixing substances is the number one cause of overdose. Heroin is particularly dangerous when mixed with depressants such as:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Alcohol

Overdosing is the number one cause of premature death in heroin addicts; however, overdoses are preventable with the right treatment plan and help. 


Heroin addicts are significantly more likely to die from suicide than individuals who are not addicted. 

The reality of being addicted to heroin is never pleasant; individuals are constantly chasing the next high, engaging in behaviors they would have never dreamt of. Addiction is a cruel, complex disease that needs medical intervention if the individual is to join sobriety. 

An individual’s mental health is likely to decrease significantly when addicted to heroin and will get worse the longer the individual is an addict. They are likely to begin feeling:

  • Isolated from loved ones
  • Lost in life
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings or worsening depression

Addiction Treatment For Heroin Abuse

If you or a loved one needs addiction treatment specifically for heroin dependency, help is always available. 

A strong recovery community is crucial to the healing process. Most successful recovering addicts will attribute their ability to overcome addiction to the help of their peers. Group Therapy sessions and meetings attended by others in treatment can be very insightful and encouraged as part of the addiction treatment. More specific forms of therapy, such as Cognitive-behavioral therapy, are available at our San Diego Rehab. 

 These modalities are a great source of learning and skill development to manage stress and anxiety. Shoreline Recovery’s heroin rehab facility in San Diego has various resources and treatment programs that can be used at the client’s disposal. They provide ideal opportunities to develop and learn skills and techniques that will be very useful. Learning to recognize specific triggers and how to cope with different situations that naturally occur in everyday life is crucial as you strive to continue accomplishing the goals that may have been set. 

Our main goal, though, is to provide the best and most comfortable treatment options that are aimed to provide all of our clients with the tools they need to maintain their life in sobriety.


National Center for Health Statistics –

Murphy SL, Kochanek KD, Xu JQ, Arias E. Mortality in the United States, 2020. NCHS Data Brief, no 427. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2021. DOI: icon.

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