The potency and dangerous nature of heroin cannot be understated. Highly addictive, heroin is one of the most powerful substances on the planet. Many people who start using heroin do so to experiment and “see what its like”. Unfortunately, heroin users become addicted after the first hit of the drug. To feel the euphoric high the drug produces, users will gradually need more of the drug to achieve those effects.
If you suspect that a loved one or friend is using heroin, there are a wide range of symptoms that a user will display while under the influence. While some symptoms are clear, there are a range of symptoms that are subtle and hard to discern. The following article will outline the most common heroin symptoms. With this knowledge, you can be proactive in helping your loved ones get the help they need before its too late.
It is important to understand there are a wide range of heroin symptoms that a person can manifest. The truth is that heroin addiction impacts the whole of a person’s being. It affects the user’s physical health, mental health and psychological well-being.
Physical Symptoms of Heroin Use
Heroin is a drug that has significant impacts on a person’s overall health. Some of the most common symptoms include track marks found on the user’s arms, legs and other parts of the body. This is seen in heroin users who inject the drug via needle which is the most common route of administration. Other symptoms include constant runny nose, shallow breathing and difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, flushed skin and constricted pupils.
Additionally, users can also display dry mouth and frequently contract respiratory infections. Because heroin suppresses appetite, users experience dramatic weight loss and will look emaciated and malnourished. When heroin enters the body, it produces histamines which cause the skin to become itchy and irritated. When users scratch their skin—especially those areas which they inject the drug—scabs and bruises will appear.
Heroin immediately acts on the brain and immediately begins to alter brain chemistry. The drug robs the brain’s ability to produce neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. Chronic heroin users use the drug not so much to feel euphoria as to function normally and without sickness or pain. Long-term heroin users will experience psychological symptoms which can be harrowing.
Common psychological symptoms of heroin use include hallucinations. These can be visual hallucinations as well as audio and tactile (touch). Heroin users will display considerable confusion and may not be aware of their surroundings. Additionally, psychological symptoms include delusions and extreme paranoia.
As stated in the psychological symptoms section, heroin immediately impacts brain chemistry. As a result, the moods of the user become more erratic and volatile. When the effects of heroin diminish, users can experience periods of depression as well as anxiety. When on the drug, users experience euphoria, contentment and happiness. Additionally, the mood symptoms of heroin use can include irritability, agitation and hostility towards others. This hostility can be both verbal and physical.
Since brain functioning and moods are severely impacted by heroin use, those under the influence of the drug can display unusual behavior. For example, heroin users will avoid loved ones and continue to use heroin in isolation. When confronted about their use of heroin, users will often become defensive and combative and lie about use. They may also rationalize their use and blame others for their addiction.
Those who are addicted to heroin are preoccupied with using the drug and spend their daily energies obtaining heroin finding money to buy the drug. As a result, their family, work and education decrease in importance. Additionally, their personal hygiene and appearance decline. Other behavioral symptoms include slurred speech, apathy, and periods of activity followed by considerable periods of exhaustion and sleep.
What You Need to Do When You See Heroin Symptoms
From the list above, it is apparent that heroin symptoms are varied and can manifest themselves in a variety of ways. It is important to know that heroin users don’t have to display all the symptoms listed above to be addicted to the drug. When you see symptoms emerge, it is important to find professional help. However, leading the user to the help they need is often easier said than done.
Like other addicts, heroin users operate with a heavy sense of denial. They are often the last to see they have a problem, and they will fight tooth and nail with those who show concern. When approaching a loved one who displays heroin symptoms, express concern and empathy. Since chronic heroin users exhaust their financial resources obtaining the drug, they will try to get money for you or other loved ones to continue their habit.
While you may want to help those in need, you may be doing more harm to the addict. You can offer help, but only if it is tied to getting professional treatment. You may have to cut ties with your loved one until they make the decision to get help. This may be difficult to do, but you cannot get the heroin addict well and sober. While you can provide moral and emotional support, they alone must do the work necessary to get clean and sober.
Help is a Phone Call Away
Watching a loved one struggle with heroin addiction is heartbreaking and painful. As you see the heroin symptoms increase, you may feel hopeless and feel there may not be help available for your loved one. Fortunately, there are many helpful resources at your disposal. Make a phone call to a reputable drug treatment facility and speak to experienced and compassionate personnel. Attend sober support group meetings and speak to others whose loved ones are also struggling with heroin addiction. Talk to your family doctor, healthcare professional or staff at a local non-profit organization.
The more information you have, you are better able to help a loved one who is losing their battle with heroin addiction. Don’t wait another day, act and help your loved one break the vicious cycle of heroin addiction once and for all.