Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine, which is an opiate (natural opioid) found in the opium poppy plant. When snorted, smoked, or injected, heroin causes a rush of relaxation and happiness. Like other opioids, it’s highly addictive.
Here are ten of the most common symptoms of heroin addiction.
1. Appearance Changes
Heroin addiction can cause a number of physical symptoms, including:
- sudden weight loss
- sudden decline in personal hygiene, such as unwashed hair or dirty clothes
- flushed skin
- dry mouth
- change in pupil size
- frequent itching
- puffy eyes
- frequent sniffing, nosebleeds, or runny nose from snorting heroin
- scars and scabs on arms, thighs, or other injection sites (also called “track marks”)
In addition, to hide track marks, your loved one may wear long sleeves and pants all year long, even in hot weather.
2. Withdrawal Symptoms
One of the most common signs of heroin addiction is physical dependence. When you’re physically dependent on heroin, your body becomes unable to function normally without it. If you go too long without the drug, you may experience withdrawal symptoms, such as:
- stomach pain
- muscle spasms
- intense cravings for heroin
If your loved one frequently experiences these symptoms, they may be experiencing heroin withdrawal.
3. Cognitive Issues
Like other types of drug abuse, heroin abuse can damage certain areas of your brain. This damage may lead to cognitive problems, including:
- poor memory
- poor attention span
- trouble making decisions and solving problems
- decreased self-control
Because of these issues, your loved one may fall behind at work or school. They may also struggle to keep up with responsibilities at home, such as cleaning, cooking, or taking care of children.
4. Financial Problems
In general, heroin is relatively cheap compared to other street drugs.
However, people with heroin addiction may buy so much heroin that they spend nearly $100,000 per year on it.
Many of them have trouble affording the drug, especially when their addictions lead to job loss. They may then ask their loved ones for money on a regular basis or even steal from them.
5. Heroin Side Effects
A person struggling with heroin addiction will likely experience the drug’s most common side effects, which include:
- slowed breathing
- slurred speech
- nausea and vomiting
They may also develop long-term health problems, such as:
- trouble sleeping
- stomach cramping
- nasal damage from snorting heroin
- collapsed veins from injecting heroin
- irregular menstruation
- sexual dysfunction
- liver and kidney disease
- pneumonia or other lung problems
6. Sudden Shifts In Energy
A person who is addicted to heroin may frequently “nod out.” That means they will alternate between increased wakefulness and extreme drowsiness.
In other words, your loved one might appear highly energized and focused one moment and then fall into a deep sleep soon after. In severe cases, they may be unable to wake up and experience a deadly overdose.
7. Relationships Problems
When someone becomes addicted to heroin, they will often find it difficult to think of anything besides getting and using the drug.
As a result, your loved one may start avoiding friends and family members and spend most or all of their time with other people who use heroin. They may also experience mood swings, irritability, and personality changes that further strain their relationships.
8. Suspicious Or Secretive Behaviors
To hide their heroin addiction, your loved one may engage in suspicious behaviors such as:
- spending most of their time isolated in their room
- always locking their bedroom door
- coming home late without a good reason
- refusing to discuss the places they visit or the people they spend time with
- frequently getting in trouble with the law
Also, if you ask your loved one if they have been using heroin, they may become defensive or immediately stop talking.
9. Loss Of Interest In Activities
Like other types of substance abuse, heroin abuse floods the brain with dopamine, a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) associated with pleasure.
Over time, this increased dopamine can hinder your loved one’s ability to feel pleasure from healthy activities like eating, exercising, and spending time with friends. Eventually, your loved one may lose interest in any activities that don’t involve heroin.
10. Hidden Drug Paraphernalia
Drug paraphernalia refers to items associated with drug use. The most common heroin paraphernalia include:
- needles and syringes
- cotton balls
- lighters and candles
- aluminum foil
- rolled up bills or papers
- cigarettes, pipes, or rolling papers
- spoons and bottle caps
- strings, shoelaces, or other items that can be used to tie off a limb for injecting heroin
You may find these items hidden in your loved one’s home, car, or other personal space.
If you or a loved one struggles with heroin use, please contact a Recovering Champions specialist. Our drug addiction treatment center offers mental health counseling, medication-assisted treatment, and other recovery-focused services to help you stay drug-free.