Heroin Signs and Symptoms

Heroin is a powerful drug that wreaks havoc on the lives of those who suffer from an addiction to it. As a result, there are usually very concrete signs and symptoms that indicate use.These signs and symptoms can have numerous effects on the body, both in the short and long term. These can help you tell if you or someone you love is experiencing a heroin addiction.

What Are Signs That Indicate Heroin Use and Addiction?

It is natural to be concerned when a friend or family member suddenly changes their behavior or has new health problems that weren’t there before. If you suspect a loved one may be suffering from a heroin addiction, there are a number of signs you can look for.

Of course, finding heroin in your loved one’s belongings is a clear sign. It can range from a white powdery substance to a black gooey substance called “black tar heroin.” However, you may find other drug paraphernalia even if you don’t find the drug itself. Physical signs of drug use may include needles and bands for injecting heroin, or pipes, lighters, spoons and foil for smoking it.

Additionally, heroin addiction leaves noticeable physical signs on the body. Using heroin causes a high that puts the user in a kind of trance that includes constricted pupils and slow breathing. Finding a loved one in this state of euphoria could suggest heroin addiction. You may also see other signs on their body like scars and abscesses from repeated injections of heroin or weight loss and malnutrition from poor dietary habits.

Perhaps more noticeable than the physical signs are the behavioral signs. Those suffering from heroin addiction may start acting differently and displaying strange behaviors. These include:

  • Social isolation and a lack of interest in friends and family
  • Unexplained financial trouble
  • Unexplained legal trouble
  • Sudden problems or conflicts at work or school
  • A loss of interest in previous passions or goals
  • Wearing long sleeves in warm weather to hide injection scars
  • Other impulsive or dangerous behavior

What Are Symptoms of Heroin Use and Addiction?

The most universal symptom of heroin addiction is the inability to stop using heroin even when it’s causing you distress and negative consequences. For example, you may be spending too much money on heroin and may not have enough left to pay your bills. However, despite these financial problems, you continue to use the drug.

On top of this, you may experience mental and behavioral changes. Heroin addiction makes heroin the top priority for your mind. You may start losing interests in things you once loved, and you may begin neglecting important relationships with your friends and family. This can cause you serious distress, but because of the addiction, you continue in a downward spiral.

Physical Dependence

Physical dependence is a common symptom of heroin addiction. That’s because the body quickly builds a tolerance to the drug. Heroin causes a euphoric high, but as you continue to use it, you need higher and higher doses to get the same effect.

Meanwhile, the body learns to function normally with the heroin in its system. Suddenly quitting the drug shocks it and causes unpleasant symptoms called withdrawals. These include:

  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Insomnia and restlessness
  • Nausea, diarrhea and vomiting
  • Cold flashes and goosebumps, known as “cold turkey”
  • Twitching and uncontrolled movements
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Cramps
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Severe cravings for heroin

These withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as six hours after your last dose of heroin. If you experience them whenever you try to quit heroin, it’s most likely a symptom of physical dependence and a heroin addiction.

What Are the Health Effects of Using Heroin?

Even one dose of heroin is bad for your health. There are a number of short- and long-term health effects, some severe.

Short-Term Effects

In the short term, heroin depresses the nervous system. This leads to a trance-like state with slowed breathing and heart rate as well as drowsiness and a lack of motivation. It usually clouds the mind and dampens reflexes and decision making.

Heroin intoxication can also causes a number of other other unpleasant physical effects like:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Flushed skin
  • A feeling of heaviness in your arms and legs
  • Dry mouth
  • Itching

Long-Term Effects

Repeated use of heroin over long periods of time can severely damage the body. Some of these long-term effects are due to the way you take the drug. For instance, frequently injecting heroin causes scarring and abcesses on the skin as well as potentially collapsing veins. It can also lead to skin infections or blood-borne infections like hepatitis or HIV if the needles are shared with others. Similarly, snorting or smoking heroin can damage tissue in the respiratory tract such as the nose and lungs.

Additionally, long-term heroin use can damage the brain. Specifically, it destroys white matter and affects decision making, impulses and responses to stress. This plays an important role in the cycle of addiction, another of the long-term effects of heroin abuse.

Finally, physical dependence is a common effect of long-term heroin use. Those suffering from heroin addiction develop a physical need for the drug even though it’s simultaneously hurting their mind and body. Without the drug, they suffer severe withdrawals.

Heroin Overdose

Ultimately, long-term heroin use can even lead to an overdose. Heroin overdoses are serious and can result in death, coma or permanent injuries like brain damage. Basically, heroin slows the body down. This includes the heart, lungs and nerves that control important bodily functions like breathing. The higher the dose, the more likely the heroin is to slow these bodily functions down so much that the body starts shutting down. Death from heroin overdose can occur within as little as a few minutes and is usually caused by lack of oxygen to the brain.

Get Help for Heroin Addiction

Heroin addictions cause a lot of pain and distress. They can ruin relationships and put you in financial and legal jeopardy, not to mention cause problems at work and school. Even worse, long-term heroin abuse can lead to an overdose, which could mean death or permanent injury.

Luckily, there is hope in the form of professional heroin addiction treatment. Heroin addiction is a cycle, but with scientifically proven methods like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the 12 Steps or medically assisted treatment (MAT), you can break it and learn skills to stay sober and live the healthy lifestyle you deserve. At Northeast Addictions Treatment Center, our professionals can help you design a personalized program that uses these methods to give you the best chance of successful recovery. Call Northeast Addictions Treatment Center today to learn about your options.

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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