The Telltale and Often Overlooked Signs of Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction is a debilitating disease that can cause significant impairment in every aspect of an addict’s life. It often takes years for the individual to realize they have developed a dependency on heroin, and by then, it may be too late to seek treatment. You should look out for signs if you suspect someone may have become addicted to this drug listed in the article below.

You notice that someone you love is acting sketchy, and you swear you saw a track mark the other day. Could someone you love be hiding an addiction to heroin?

In 2016, about 948,000 Americans  reported using, and many more were not brave enough to admit it. Heroin and other opiates have ended the lives of countless Americans.

When you think someone you love might be using drugs, you need to reach out to them as soon as possible. But how do you know for sure if they’re addicted to heroin?

We put together a quick guide to help you learn the signs of heroin addiction. Keep reading to know what to look for and how you can help!

Physical Symptoms of Heroin Abuse

Heroin addiction causes many physical symptoms, but not everyone manifests their addiction in the same way. Knowing what to look for can help you understand when someone has used heroin in the last couple of hours.

These are some of the physical symptoms you might see if someone has used heroin and are still “high”:

  • dry “cotton” mouth
  • flushed or sweaty skin/palms
  • nausea/vomiting
  • pin-point pupils
  • loss of motor control and body functions
  • confusion or difficulties understanding
  • difficulty making simple decisions
  • memory loss (both short and long term)
  • falling asleep in odd places or at inappropriate times
  • slow, labored breathing
  • itching (either a small area or widespread)
  • persistent constipation

Keep in mind that frequent users know how to hide many of these symptoms and hide their addiction well. For instance, addicts who experience constipation will use laxatives to help loosen their stool. Other symptoms, like tiny pupils, are harder to hide from the trained eye.

People can show physical symptoms even when they are not “high.” Withdrawal is one of the first stages of the detox process and causes extreme discomfort for the addict. This will cause them to seek more of the drug, even if it means causing harm to themselves or others.

Tools of the Trade: Looking for Paraphernalia

If someone you love abuses heroin only while away from you, there are other things you might find that could mean that they are abusing drugs. Some items may be sharp or contaminated with biohazardous fluids, so be careful when you investigate.

Drug users often keep everything they need to use their drug in one place, so it’s easy to access when they need another hit. Intravenous users keep a kit with needles, spoons, and lighters. Rubber tubing and cords are also often used as makeshift tourniquets.

There are also other ways for addicts to get their fix without needles. Those addicts who snort heroin might have a razor, small mirror, and a straw or rolled-up dollar bill. Addicts can also use a glass pipe to smoke heroin.

If you find any little baggies with an off-white, powdery residue, that could be a heroin baggie. Try not to touch this, but if you do, be sure to wash your hands, so you don’t ingest it.

Changes in the Behavior and Lifestyle of an Addict

When someone first starts to use heroin, you might not notice any change in behavior or routine. As the addiction takes control of more and more of their lives, the telltale signs become more visible.

If you notice that your loved one wears long-sleeved shirts, even when it’s too hot for that kind of clothing. This could be an attempt to hide the needle marks (or track marks). Some addicts inject heroin in places other than their arms, so not all addicts will wear long sleeves.

As time goes on, the drug takes precedence over everything else, including social and professional relationships. The desire to get more heroin and take another hit becomes more critical than self-care and even eating.

Medical Signs of Heroin Addiction

Heroin use would cause many short and long-term effects, even if the addiction were short-lived. Some of these symptoms can heal over time, but others will leave scars that last a lifetime.

One of the risks of intravenous drug use is contracting severe diseases like Hepatitis and HIV. Once contracted, an addict will need regular doctor visits for the rest of their life.

Another serious risk is drug overdose. Almost 15,000 Americans died from a drug overdose involving heroin in 2018 alone! Some addicts die alone and in the squalor of a drug den then get tossed onto the street because other addicts don’t want the police sniffing around.

Other illnesses that long-term addicts develop are kidney, liver, and heart disease. Heroin also damages the immune system for the rest of their life! Many addicts get frequent infections because their immune system cannot fight off bacteria that would otherwise be harmless for a healthy immune system.

Sometimes, heroin is “laced” with other substances or “cut” with additives so the dealers can make more money. These additives could cause an immediate reaction in an addict’s body up to and including death.

Turning the “H” for Heroin Into “H” for Help

Knowing the telltale signs of heroin addiction is the first step. Once you decide that heroin is the issue, you can intervene and get your loved one the medical attention they need to recover from this disease.

Remember, the road to recovery from drug addiction is long and full of potholes and dead ends. You need to support your loved ones throughout their journey and beyond, or they could relapse back into drug addiction.

We hope this article helped you learn ways to identify heroin abuse and addiction. If you suspect a loved one uses heroin or if you need more information about addiction treatment, contact us today!

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Long Island Treatment Center