Signs of Heroin Use – Heroin is a semi-synthetic opioid commonly abused for it’s euphoric and sedative effects. Because of this fact, users face an extremely high potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction. Heroin is usually found on the black market as a white powder or dark tacky substance known as black tar, and can be taken orally in a pill, snorted, smoked, or injected.
Heroin abuse is strongly associated with the development of tolerance and dependence. Tolerance is characterized by the brain’s tendency to reduce its response to a psychoactive substance after repeated use, a state that is marked by the user’s need for increasing amounts of the drug to produce the desired effect. Dependence occurs as the brain acclimates to the continued presence of heroin and becomes unable to function normally without it.
Withdrawal symptoms that develop after cessation of heroin use are definite indicators of chemical dependence. Moreover, when a person terminates heroin use or significantly reduces the amount used, he or she will experience highly uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptoms as a consequence. These unpleasant effects are among the primary catalysts for relapse.
Symptoms and Signs of Heroin Use
There are a number of different physical, psychological, and behavioral indicators of heroin use, including common side effects, withdrawal, and symptoms of overdose.
Side Effects of Heroin Use
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the following symptoms are among the most common side effects that can onset as a result of heroin use:
- An initial rush of euphoria
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe itching
- Flushed skin
- Slowed heart rate
- Long-term drowsiness
- Heavy feelings in limbs
- Foggy thinking
Behavioral Signs of Heroin Use
When heroin use develops into a priority, the person’s entire life begins to transform, and this drug becomes the user’s primary focus. Due to this fact, there are likely to be noticeable changes in a person’s appearance and behavior. Most often, a person who is in the throes of addiction will continue to prioritize drug use over responsibilities and relationships despite the multitude of problems it can cause.
The following are common behavioral signs and symptoms associated with heroin use that can serve as warnings for concerned loved ones that there is an imminent need for professional treatment:
- Presence of drug paraphernalia
- Adverse changes in behavior
- Worrisome changes in social group
- Use of street slang related to heroin (e.g., smack or dope)
- Friends or family missing money or valuables
- Disregard of important obligations, such as family, work, and school
- Track marks/sores on extremities
- Wearing pants or long sleeves even in warm weather to conceal injection sites
- Unkempt appearance, poor hygiene
- Legal and/or financial problems
- Lying and secretiveness
- Adamant denial of a problem despite convincing evidence to the contrary
A heroin overdose requires urgent medical care. Heroin’s potential for toxicity may be associated with its purity and the presence of more potent adulterants, such as fentanyl or other synthetic or designer substances.
The following are typical signs of an overdose of heroin:
- Bluish lips or nails
- Labored or stopped breathing
- Pinpoint pupils
- Muscle spasticity
- Low blood pressure
- Weak pulse
- Extreme drowsiness
Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms onset as a result of physiological dependence in frequent heroin users or after a “binge”—an extended episode of excessive drug use. Heroin withdrawal symptoms usually begin 6-12 hours after the last dose, peak within 48 hours, and recede over the course of 5-7 days.
In some cases, the loved ones of those abusing heroin may not be aware they have been using or the extent of use. However, if they learn to identify the symptoms of withdrawal, they may increase their awareness of the scope of the problem.
Common withdrawal symptoms related to heroin abuse include the following:
- Sleep disturbances
- Depression or anxiety
- Body aches and pains
- Irritability and agitation
- Runny nose
- Nausea and vomiting
Treatment for Heroin Addiction
Heroin abuse is a destructive and potentially life-threatening condition that causes an enormous amount of suffering for both the person using and their loved ones. Fortunately, heroin addiction is treatable through the use of an integrated, evidence-based approach that includes therapeutic services vital to recovery, such as psychotherapy, counseling, group support, and aftercare planning.
Treatment frequently begins with detox—a medically-supervised process in which an individual is monitored for several days while his or her body clears itself of toxic substances. Following detox, patients are urged to undergo inpatient treatment or partial-hospitalization, followed by intensive outpatient therapy.
Harmony Recovery Center employs professional addiction specialists who provide patients with the tools and knowledge they so desperately need to achieve abstinence, prevent relapse, and experience long-lasting wellness and sobriety. Contact us today and discover how we can help you or a loved one through the process of recovery and begin to enjoy a fulfilling and healthy life once again!