When you suspect that a family member is using heroin, it is difficult to accept. While you clearly see them deteriorate right in front of your eyes, you hope that it is anything besides heroin abuse. You may think that heroin abuse only happens to certain people and can never affect you or your family. When confronted with heroin addiction, you feel angry, heartbroken and even hopeless.
If you are dealing with the realities of heroin addiction, you for the most part are in the dark in knowing what to look for and how to handle one’s heroin addiction. For a loved one to get the help they need, you need to be keenly aware of the signs of heroin addiction. This article outlines a few of the telltale signs of heroin abuse. By knowing these signs, you can be active in helping a loved one get the professional treatment and support they need to fully recover.
Sign #1: Signs of Heroin Intoxication
The biggest sign of heroin abuse is witnessing a loved one who is under the influence of the drug. While those who use heroin use in isolation and keep it from others, the signs of heroin intoxication are easy to spot. The most common signs that someone is under the influence of heroin are the following:
- Impaired mental functioning
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tiny pupils—known as “pinning”
- Runny nose
- Heavy, sluggish movement
- Passing in and out of consciousness
- Substantial mental confusion
Sign #2: The Presence of Paraphernalia
Another telltale sign of heroin abuse is the presence of paraphernalia found on their person or in their room or hidden spaces. Since many people inject heroin, there are a considerable number of common items that are used to prepare the drug for administration. For those who inject the drug, you may see needles, cotton balls, burnt and bent spoons and extra lighters or candles. To tie off their arms to expose veins for intravenous injection, you may also see shoelaces or pieces of rubber hose.
If your loved one is smoking heroin, you may see used aluminum foil which is fashioned into a makeshift pipe. If a loved one happens to be snorting the drug, you may see straws, small tubes, or rolled up bills or paper.
Sign #3: Unusual Behavior
As stated in previous articles, heroin significantly alters a user’s brain chemistry. As a result, their behavior becomes unpredictable, mysterious and abrupt. The following are some behavioral changes you may see in a loved one who is struggling with heroin abuse:
- Noticeable changes in social activities. The heroin user will often make excuses why they don’t attend family functions or other events they had enjoyed prior to heroin abuse.
- You notice loved ones giving up hobbies and activities they previously enjoyed.
- You notice an abrupt change in friends, and your loved one is hesitant in introducing these new friends to you.
- Increased isolation and secretive behavior.
Sign #4: Denial
Those who engage in heroin abuse will engage in extreme denial when confronted about their use of the drug. Dealing with denial can be extremely tricky in the fact that addict rarely or never see the result of their substance use. When confronted about their use of heroin, your loved one may play off the seriousness of their addiction. They may also become extremely defensive about their use of heroin.
Additionally, your loved one may turn hostile and blame others for their heroin abuse to redirect responsibility. This unwillingness to confront the issue or deal with it rationally can be a good indicator that a loved one is struggling with heroin abuse.
Sign #5: Physical Signs of Heroin Abuse
Heroin addicts pull out all the stops to try and hide their use. They use heroin in isolation steer clear of family, friends and all who are genuinely concerned for their well-being. While the addict can get very good at hiding their use, it can be difficult for them to hide the physical symptoms of abuse. The following are common physical signs of heroin abuse:
- Track marks as the result of continually injecting heroin into the arm, leg or other areas of the body.
- Itchy skin—since heroin releases a large number of histamines, it results in dry skin. Chronic heroin users will constantly scratch and pick at their skin which can lead to the formation of scabs and bruises.
- Significant weight loss that occurs over a relatively short period of time.
- Chronic heroin users will experience sexual dysfunction and increased impotence.
Sign #6: The Subtle Signs of Heroin Abuse
You also must be on the lookout for the subtler signs of heroin abuse. First, you may notice that household items or valuables may be missing. Since heroin addiction can be expensive, long-term heroin users may resort to stealing valuables to get the cash needed to keep their habits active. Your loved one may also be running into regular trouble at work, school or with law enforcement. They may start becoming underemployed, unemployed or they may start engaging in illegal activities.
Sign #7: Medical Complications
For those who engage in long-term heroin use, they have an increased risk of developing substantial health problems. Because heroin users may use dirty needles if they inject the drug, the risk of contracting diseases such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV rises significantly. Since dealers cut heroin with other drugs and substances, it can cause inflammation of the heart and ultimately heart disease.
The toxicity of heroin also causes a host of other serious health issues such as liver and kidney damage, pneumonia, arthritis and a variety of bacterial infections. If these conditions go unchecked and without medical help, they can become life-threatening.
When a loved one struggles with heroin abuse, you and your family also struggle with abuse. If your loved one is losing their battle with heroin addiction, today is the day to act! Call us toll-free and our experienced personnel can find a treatment facility that has the programs and support to help your loved one recover. Call now!