If you suspect a loved one is addicted to heroin, it can be a very trying time. We’re here to help you spot the signs so you can help your loved one get the help they need. At Direct2Recovery, we’re an outpatient suboxone clinic in Phoenix who offers medication-assisted treatment and telemedicine options for those recovering from an addiction.
We know better than anyone that the first step of recovery is admitting there is a problem. That’s where this blog comes in. If you suspect someone you know is addicted to drugs, such as heroin, we wanted to help you identify some key signs of addiction. So here are some signs of heroin addiction you should be on the look for.
What is Heroin?
Heroin is a semi-synthetic opioid made using extracts from the poppy plant. It is a powdery, crumbly substance or a black and sticky substance (known as black tar heroin). Its powdery form is often off-white, but its color can range from white to dark brown or black.
Heroin is an illegal substance that is highly addictive and can lead to severe addictions.
Many heroin users don’t start their addiction with heroin. Because it is an opioid, it is probable that their addiction started from pain killers — whether prescribed or illegally obtained. If your loved one was on painkillers, this can be your first sign of an opioid addiction.
Opioids relieve pain by blocking or reducing the number of pain signals sent to the brain. They also cause the brain to release endorphins, causing the user to feel happy, euphoric, or high.
Risk Factors Involved with Heroin Addiction
A risk factor simply means that someone who experiences any of the following may be more susceptible to trying illicit substances, such as heroin. Matching one of more of these risk factors is not an indicator that a loved one is using drugs.
Known risk factors of drug addiction include:
- Misuse of prescription opioids such as morphine or oxycodone
- Family history of addiction or substance use disorders
- Personal experience with drug use or experimentation
- History with mental health disorders (depression, anxiety, etc.)
- Risk-taking or thrill-seeking behavior
- Severe pressures at home or at work
- Poverty or unemployment
- Previous criminal activity
- Emotional trauma or abuse
- Stressful life or family situations
Again, if you or a loved one have experienced any of the above risk factors, it does not mean you will get addicted to drugs. These are only common factors that have caused drug abuse in the past.
Signs of a Heroin Addiction
There are normally strong signs of an addiction for any drug. Signs of a heroin addiction are fairly easy to find if you know what you’re looking for.
Look for Paraphernalia
Remember, finding drug paraphernalia (items used to take drugs) isn’t necessarily an indicator that they’re using drugs, but there is an increased risk that those who have it are using drugs. In the case of heroin, there are telling signs, but finding a pipe on its own may not be enough to prove use. Look for some or all of the following:
- Medical needle and syringe
- Spoons with lighters
- Rubber tubing or elastic bands (tourniquets)
Heroin can be smoked or injected, which is why looking for all of these things around their home or room can be signs of a heroin addiction.
Look for Physical Symptoms
If your loved one has taken heroin recently, physical symptoms are often very telling. They develop quickly. Look for signs of a dry mouth, flushed skin, or dilated pupils. You should also be looking for the following:
- Falling asleep suddenly
- Slow breathing
- Loss of self-control
- Confused thinking or disorientation
- Difficulty making decisions
- Memory loss
People who use heroin regularly also often need laxatives or stool softeners because the drug can cause constipation. Take this symptom with caution, as it could be caused by a chronic illness as well.
Changes in Psychological and Behavioral
All drugs will cause changes in the user’s psyche and behaviors. Be on the lookout for the following:
- Mood swings
- Lying or deceptive behavior
- Avoiding eye contact with others
- Loss of motivation
- Lack of interest in hobbies or activities
- Decreasing quality of performance at school or work
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Hostile behavior toward loved ones
- Repeatedly stealing or borrowing money from others
- Wearing long sleeves or pants to hide needle marks
- Lower attention to personal hygiene
Again, keep in mind that depression, anxiety, loss of motivation, and other abnormal changes could be caused by a life-changing event (such as a global pandemic). They may not mean your loved one is using heroin, but it can still mean they need your support. If you notice any of these behavioral changes, reach out to your loved one and let them know what you’re there for them. Something that small can make a huge difference.
Watch for Withdrawal Symptoms
Sometimes you might not know if a loved one tried drugs or is addicted to them until they’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal occurs when a regular user stops using heroin or other illicit substances. Withdrawal is usually not very pleasant and comes with a variety of physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms.
Short-term heroin withdrawal symptoms (within first 24 hours) include:
- Muscle pains and aches
- Insomnia or inability to sleep
- Heavy and frequent sweating
- High level of anxiety
- Runny nose and/or eyes tearing up
Long-term heroin withdrawal symptoms (after 24 hours) include:
- Stomach pains and diarrhea
- Rapid heartbeat and high blood pressure
- Dilated pupils or blurry vision
- Intense nausea and vomiting
Treating Heroin Addiction
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction and is ready to seek help, there are a few reputable affordable addiction treatment centers, such as Direct2Recovery. We’re different from a typical rehab center.
At Direct2Recovery, our mission is to passionately help as many people as we can. That means helping you talk to your loved one about addiction and spot the signs of addiction. We take the time to get to know you and your loved one to create a treatment plan that works for you.
We also offer telemedicine for select individuals. These virtual visits include supervised drug testing and counseling with a board-certified physician.
If you or a loved one are struggling with opiate addiction, we want to help you regain control of your life. We’re ready to help. Contact us to learn more.