According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 1999 and 2019 the deaths from heroin overdose in the United States rose from 1,960 to 14,019. While heroin is just one facet of the current opioid epidemic in the United States, it’s critically important that you understand the signs of heroin use so you can spot it in your loved ones and know when to take action.
There are a few clear signs someone is using heroin. So, if you think someone you love may be using this deadly opiate, keep reading to learn more about what heroin addiction looks like and how to get them help.
The first thing you should know to look out for is the paraphernalia needed to use heroin. Users can inject, snort, and smoke heroin. Some of the common items that you may find around a heroin addict are:
Heroin is a powdery substance that usually has an off-white color. Depending on the type of heroin, it could also range from white to brown to black. Black tar heroin is black and sticky.
Addiction is a powerful disease that wreaks havoc on every aspect of an addict’s life. When it comes to signs of heroin use, there are three distinct categories: physical signs, behavioral signs, and psychological signs.
Recognizing all three areas where behaviors, thoughts, and feelings can change will help you in recognizing addiction and helping your loved one treat the disease.
The physical signs of heroin use can occur immediately after using the drug. But some of the signs of long-term addiction take a lot longer to show up.
The physical symptoms of heroin use are:
Some users report feelings of heaviness, confused or disoriented thinking, difficulty with the decision-making process, and memory loss.
Frequent heroin use leads to constipation, so long-term addicts may need laxatives or stool softeners.
The behaviors of someone addicted to heroin could be tricky to spot, especially in the early stages. Over time, the addiction is more apparent and it takes over all aspects of the person’s life. Eventually, a heroin addict thinks of almost nothing except for getting their next fix.
Heroin addicts may also wear long sleeves regardless of the weather to hide their track marks and scars. Withdrawing from family and friends is common. An addict thinks little of anything beyond their disorder and now how to get caught in it.
Work and personal relationships will start to degrade. It’s also common for heroin addicts to neglect their health and personal hygiene.
Heroin addiction also comes with a host of psychological signs. They are:
As you can see, the signs of heroin addiction also look a lot like the signs of depression.
Heroin use has both immediate and long-term health consequences. Heroin is a powerful opioid that comes with dangerous side effects that could be fatal.
Miscarriage is common with women who use heroin. Infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis are common as well, thanks to practices like sharing needles.
Heroin abuse will damage the kidney, liver, heart, and immune system. This leaves the body vulnerable to a whole host of infections because it can’t fight off the bacteria.
Because heroin is bought and sold on the street, there is no regulating it. Heroin often contains additives that can cause clogged blood vessels, arteries, and veins. This causes heart attacks, strokes, and even irreversible organ damage.
Many additives can kill within minutes due to being laced with deadly chemicals.
A heroin overdose happens when the user takes enough to produce a reaction that could lead to death. It can be tricky to tell when someone has overdosed because many users fall asleep when they’re high.
Someone overdosing on heroin will have slowed or stopped breathing. They will go unconscious and their body will not respond to any stimuli. If you check their pulse, it will be slow and erratic and their face will be pale and clammy.
This decreases the oxygen getting to the brain and they’ll enter hypoxia. If left untreated, hypoxia will lead to nerve damage, a coma, and eventually death.
When someone stops using heroin after developing a dependency, they will go through withdrawal. Withdrawal is both highly unpleasant and potentially dangerous, depending on the severity of the disease and symptoms.
Short term withdrawal symptoms are:
Some long term withdrawal symptoms are:
These symptoms are usually less intense at first, slowly building in intensity until they reach a peak. After the withdrawal process is complete, the symptoms will start to fade.
If you or someone you love is addicted to heroin, your first step should be to reach out to someone you trust to let them know. Every addiction treatment plan flows much smoother when you’ve got a team of people on your side who can help to put plans into action.
Getting someone with addiction into treatment can be hard, but it’s the only way to safely get them through withdrawal and help prevent them from relapsing later on down the line.
Knowing the signs of heroin use is the first step towards being able to help your loved ones while they deal with addiction. Addiction is a disease that is mired in shame and addicts often feel like they can’t reach out to anyone for help. Knowing when to lend a helping hand without being asked could mean the difference between addiction and recovery.
For more information about recovering from addiction, contact us today.