According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 494,000 people admitted to using heroin in 2017. Unfortunately, that number has continued to rise since then, especially in regards to women and those with higher income levels.
This is dangerous because heroin is a highly addictive opioid that can cause numerous physical and mental health problems. It is important to be able to recognize the following five warning signs of heroin abuse.
1. Physical Warning Signs Of Heroin Abuse
The symptoms of heroin abuse are startling to see for someone who has not spent much time around addicted individuals. Heroin can cause rapid changes in a person’s appearance.
The arms and other areas of the body may have track marks from heroin injection. Track marks look like small sores. If dirty needles are used, there might be signs of a skin infection around the wounds, such as swelling and redness.
Next, the eyes may look bloodshot and hollow. The pupils will likely be severely constricted (smaller than normal), which is a symptom that is commonly referred to as “heroin eyes.” Other physical warning signs include frequent nausea and vomiting that can’t be contributed to any other health condition.
2. Mental Warning Signs Of Heroin Abuse
The mental heroin abuse signs, like depression and paranoia, occur because of the way that the drug affects the neurochemicals in the brain and the central nervous system.
Other symptoms, like confusion, are on the list of warning signs of heroin abuse, too. It is common for those who take heroin to use increasing amounts of it as they build up a tolerance, which can impair their ability to process and remember information.
3. Behavioral Signs
Since this drug is highly illegal, many loved ones notice the heroin abuse signs that affect a person’s behavior first, such as becoming more secretive about where they are going and when they will be back home.
The person may start to lie more often and wear sunglasses and long sleeves in an attempt to cover up the evidence of heroin abuse. Heroin decreases energy and motivation, so it also helps to keep an eye out for someone suddenly avoiding their responsibilities or losing interest in hobbies that they used to enjoy.
4. Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms
One of the most obvious warning signs of heroin abuse to look for is the appearance of withdrawal symptoms when someone isn’t able to get more of the drug.
Heroin withdrawal signs and symptoms can include:
- cold sweats
- muscle and bone pain
- severe depression
Withdrawal from heroin begins six to 12 hours after the last dose, peaks around two to three days, and will last for at least a week after someone’s last dose.
5. Signs Of Heroin Addiction Or Dependence
Those who don’t have an addiction may not understand that some drugs cause people to become physically dependent on them. Physical dependence is different than simply being addicted to something. With dependence, a person’s body will not be able to function without heroin.
If an addicted person tries to stop taking it on their own, they can become very sick. This is what leads to withdrawal symptoms. Heroin is considered to be one of the most dangerous drugs because it causes physical dependence much faster than other substances, including cocaine.
How To Help Someone Struggling With Heroin Abuse
Most people who begin using heroin have no intention of becoming addicted to or dependent on the drug. They may try it once as an experiment at a party or some other type of social gathering.
After this, the reward center of their brain causes them to develop cravings for the substance. The only way to stop the cycle and ensure that the withdrawal process is safe is to have an addicted person admitted to a facility that offers medically supervised detox programs.
Following this, inpatient treatment is recommended due to the high rates of relapse associated with heroin addiction. Those with severe heroin addictions have a hard time staying true to sobriety within outpatient programs.
If you know someone who is struggling with heroin addiction, our treatment specialists can help. Call Elevate Addiction Services to see how we can help you get the treatment you or your loved one needs today.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Drug Overdose Data: Heroin
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — What are the immediate (short-term) effects of heroin use?
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Heroin