Those within a person’s closest circle – such as family members and friends – are often the first to notice signs of a heroin problem. For these loved ones, seeing the ways a person has been changed by their heroin use can be startling, from its effects on behavior, to physical appearance and mental well-being.
If you suspect that someone you love is using heroin, knowing common signs of heroin use can be a helpful way to determine whether your loved one has a drug problem and requires professional treatment.
The following are seven common signs of heroin use and addiction that can indicate a need for treatment:
Leaving Behind Drug Paraphernalia
All heroin is illegally-manufactured into substances that can be smoked, snorted, or dissolved for injection. The most common forms of heroin include a white powder substance and black tar heroin – which has the appearance of a sticky, tar-like substance or a dark rock.
While people who are first using heroin can be more careful of hiding their drug use, those who have developed an addiction may be less vigilant. They may leave residue of powder heroin on flat surfaces such as table-tops, desks, or magazines – or leave baggies of heroin among their belongings.
Other drug paraphernalia that can indicate heroin use:
- injection needles
- spoons (for heating black tar)
- aluminum foil
- torn apart pens
- lighter and matches
The evidence left behind of a person’s heroin use can depend on the type of heroin they use, and how they use it. These materials may be left in a person’s bedroom, in their car, or scattered elsewhere across their home.
As a depressant, heroin produces its effects by slowing down activity in the brain and body. This can lead to feelings of euphoria and relaxation. Through chronic use, taking frequent hits may also lead to sluggishness and excessive fatigue.
As a result of these effects, people using heroin may have a more difficult time getting to work or maintaining the same standard of job performance. Heroin use can also affect other areas of a person’s life, leading to neglect of other personal obligations due to chronic effects of confusion and foggy thinking.
Physical Symptoms Of Heroin Use
In addition to fatigue, heroin use can also be spotted based on its other common physical symptoms.
Physical symptoms of heroin use can include:
- tiny pupils
- chronic runny nose
- flushed skin
- nausea and vomiting
- excessive itching
- dry mouth
- heaviness of the limbs
- reduced heart rate
- slow breathing
- weakened immune system
The intensity of these symptoms can vary depending on how much heroin a person has used, their method of use, and whether or not they have taken heroin with other drugs.
Change In Mood And Behavior
Over time, addiction can become all-consuming, having dramatic effects on a person’s mood and behavior. Through chronic use, heroin can make changes in the brain that reinforces repeated use of the drug. This can make it difficult for people to go long stretches of time without it.
The effects of opioids on the limbic system – a part of the brain – can also alter emotions, and lead to rapid mood swings between euphoric highs and a low, fatigued state.
Heroin use can also lead to:
- decreased ability to regulate behavior
- difficulty making decisions in stressful situations
- engaging in risky behaviors (e.g. unsafe sex)
- increased risk for suicide
Once a person has become addicted to heroin, using it and getting more of it can become central to a person’s thoughts. In an effort to hide their heroin use, your loved one may begin avoiding social gatherings or make excuses for spending more time alone.
Changes In Appearance
Chronic use of heroin can have several effects on a person’s body and appearance. For instance, many people who use heroin experience low appetite, which can lead to weight loss and other signs of malnutrition such as brittle nails, hair falling out, and gauntness of the face.
Depending on the method of heroin use, heroin addiction can also lead to skin lesions, infections, damaged nasal tissue, and track marks on the arms. In order to hide these effects, you may notice your loved one wearing long-sleeved shirts more often or finding other ways to cover their skin.
Having an addiction to heroin can be costly. Depending on a person’s tolerance and how frequently they use the drug, just purchasing heroin alone can cost between $100-$200 a day – or more. This is based on the estimated cost of 10 to 15 hits a day, which can cost anywhere from $5 to $20 each, depending on the amount purchased and the supplier.
While personal financial situations can vary, for many this can become a problem amidst other usual expenses. To keep buying heroin, a person may try to cut costs in other areas of their spending or pawn valuables for cash.
Denying They Have A Problem
Most people who are struggling with heroin addiction are unlikely to admit to their drug use, especially if they worry they’ll be judged. For many, denying a drug problem can be an act of self-protection, to avoid admitting it to others – and to avoid admitting to themselves that they need help.
How Do I Help A Loved One Who Is Using Heroin?
The most helpful thing you can do for a loved one who is using heroin is to seek a professional’s opinion on the extent of your loved one’s problem. If your loved one has developed an addiction to heroin, they may require the supervision and structure of inpatient rehab.
While many people can be reluctant to enter a drug rehab program, or outright refuse, it is important for someone who is addicted to heroin to receive treatment as soon as possible. If necessary, this can involve staging a group intervention for your loved one, or seeking court-ordered rehab through the legal system.
Within an inpatient rehab program, treatment for heroin addiction often involves:
- medically supervised detox
- behavioral therapy
- medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
- peer support groups
- family therapy
- skill-learning groups
- nutritional counseling
Treatment For Heroin Addiction In Ohio
Getting a person into treatment for heroin abuse is the first step in helping them overcome addiction and begin their path towards recovery.
At The Bluffs treatment center in Ohio, we offer full rehab programs for heroin addiction that include medical detox and a structured, personalized schedule of traditional and holistic treatments based on your loved one’s needs. Through our intensive treatment program, patients can begin to heal from the physical, mental, and psychological harms of their heroin use and learn useful coping strategies for a future in addiction recovery.
Let us help you find treatment for your loved one today. Contact one of our treatment specialists at The Bluffs to learn more about effective treatment options for heroin abuse and addiction.
- U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Prescription Opioids and Heroin, Heroin: Research Report Series
- Ithaca Times — Selling Heroin: In Ithaca the quality and price varies, but the supply is constant