How to recognize the signs of heroin addiction
If you’ve never had a friend or loved one who has struggled with heroin addiction, you may not know what to look for. Drug addiction is now so prevalent in our country, it is important that everyone can recognize the signs.
The face of heroin addiction is not reserved for the lonely, homeless person who has lost everything. Police officers, star athletes, parents, medical professionals and even senior citizens who have been cut off from their pain medication are turning up struggling with heroin addiction.
If you know what the physical and behavioral signs of heroin addiction are, you may be able to help someone get the help they need before it’s too late.
Here are the top ten signs of heroin addiction you should be aware of:
1.) Disoriented and Slurred Speech
The immediate effects of heroin use (or the high) are generally evident for up to six hours after use. Slurred speech, disorientation, and dilated pupils, are indicators of heroin use.
2.) Falling Asleep / Nodding Out
Heroin use (whether it is smoked, snorted or injected) creates an initial rush. Once that passes, the heroin user may experience a period of drowsiness. This is unmistakable. They may start to drift off and fall asleep mid-sentence. Heroin users call this “nodding out” or being “on the nod.” This is a strong sign of heroin addiction.
In reality, the stage of nodding out is considered the precursor to overdose. Instead of being part of the high, as some may think, it is an indication of respiratory system depression which can lead to respiratory failure, coma or death.
3.) Unkempt Appearance
Heroin use often takes over the entire focus of a user’s day. Personal hygiene and self care become secondary. Showering or putting on makeup becomes unimportant, skin may look unhealthy and they have an overall unkempt appearance. This is common but doesn’t happen 100% of the time. Some heroin users keep up with personal appearance rather well.
4.) Sudden Weight Loss
Heroin use greatly decreases a user’s appetite, causing severe and sudden weight loss. Many individuals struggling with heroin addiction do not lose weight, but they often do appear unhealthy, especially their skin.
5.) Needle Marks
Many heroin users progresses to injecting, or IV drug use, in an effort to get a more intense high. Injecting leaves needle marks, scars and bruises, also called track marks. These marks can be found almost anywhere, but are most commonly found on the arms, legs and hands. Heroin users who need to hide any visible indicators may inject in their ankles or between their toes. Wearing long-sleeved shirts in the summer can be an indicator of IV drug use.
6.) Itchy Skin / Runny Nose
Have you ever heard of an antihistamine? Usually, an antihistamine is an over the counter drug that helps us to stop itchy skin from an allergic reaction. Heroin use actually does the opposite. It releases histamines in the body and creates intense itchiness along with a runny nose.
Once a person is engaged in active heroin addiction, they often lose interest in all activities that once gave them pleasure. Isolation and disconnecting from friends and family is part of the normal progression as more time is spent searching for drugs and planning their lives around their next high.
8.) Borrowing Money
It is not uncommon for a person in full blown heroin addiction to quickly use all of their money. $200 a day is average and many people caught in the cycle of addiction end up losing their jobs so borrowing money become a way of life.
Heroin addiction causes intense cravings. The part of the brain that deals with impulse control becomes overwhelmed and individuals often act without thinking. Drug use becomes an obsession. Even the most honest person often resorts to stealing, either from family and friends or from retail stores.
I remember one person telling me he would make the rounds through department store parking lots (places like Target) looking for receipts laying on the ground or in the bottom of shopping carts. If he would spot an item like a case of diapers ($25) or some other product that is relatively expensive but not suspicious, he would simply walk into the store with the receipt, go to the shelf, get the item and take it to the courtesy counter and return it for cash. This was part of his daily routine to feed his drug habit.
10.) Drug Paraphernalia
As heroin use progresses, the user becomes more sloppy and will often leave paraphernalia laying around.
Paraphernalia related to IV drug use are:
- Hypodermic needles: to inject liquified drug
- Cotton balls: used as a filter to strain the liquid drug and pull out anything that didn’t melt
- Spoons or bottle caps: used to cook the heroin, turning it from a solid to a liquid
- Tie-off: A belt, shoelace, hair tie, cord, or string used to tie off a limb and restrict blood flow to make the veins easier to access
- Lighter or candle: to melt heroin into a liquid
Paraphernalia related to smoking heroin are:
- Aluminum foil: used to hold the drug while it is smoked
- Lighter or candle: placed under the foil, which causes the drug to emit smoke
- Straw: used to inhale the smoke off the heroin
If you find a combination of the materials mentioned above, these are strong signs of heroin addiction.
Help for Heroin Addiction
The best thing you can do for someone who is suffering from heroin addiction is to help them recognize their need for treatment.If they do reach out to you for help, an inpatient addiction treatment facility, such as Gracious Care Recovery Solutions, offers the therapy and tools necessary to live a life free from the bondage of addiction.
Give us a call today. We are here to help.