Serum Biochemical Parameters Following Heroin Withdrawal: An Exploratory Study




Long-term consumption of opioid compounds, even after withdrawal, affects serum biochemical parameters. Investigating these alterations is a new approach in substance abuse studies.


This study investigated clinical laboratory results in men who are currently active, recently abstinent and non-heroin users. Participants (N = 240) of this matched cohort study included heroin dependent men referred for abstinence treatment, volunteer men who did not abuse opioids matched for age, sex, body mass index, and educational level (control group). The groups were further sub-divided for analysis into (a) continuous heroin users for more than 2 years (N = 70), the dependent group; (b) heroin abusers with 1 month abstinence period (N = 70), identified as ex-heroin dependents; and (c) a matched, non-dependent control group (N = 100). All participants were tested for fasting blood sugar (FBS), sodium, potassium, calcium, uric acid (UA), blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, total cholesterol, triglycerides (TGs), total protein, fibrinogen, and prothrombin.


Compared to the control group, ex-heroin dependents showed decreased FBS and significantly higher sodium, creatinine, and cholesterol levels. Compared to the heroin dependent group, the ex-heroin dependents showed significant differences in FBS, sodium, calcium, creatinine, UA, and thrombin time. No significant differences were noted between ex-heroin dependents and controls in potassium, calcium, UA, BUN, TGs, total protein, and thrombin time.


These results demonstrate altered laboratory markers in long-term heroin dependents as well as ex-heroin dependents and suggest the need for further identification, population distribution, and etiological understanding of these biomarkers in individuals who have abused heroin. (Am J Addict 2014;23:48–52)