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Signs That Show Someone is Addicted to Heroin

Signs That Show Someone is Addicted to Heroin

How to Tell If Someone is Addicted to Heroin

Medical detox and rehab are the first steps toward long-term recovery for drug addiction. Heroin is one of the leading drugs that are abused and knowing the signs of addiction is important.

Recognizing the Drug and Paraphernalia

As a form of morphine, the drug is derived from the poppy plant and may be:

  • Brown or white powder
  • Solid chunks that are black in color
  • Sticky, tar-like substance

The drug can be injected, smoked and snorted. Paraphernalia that is used for the drug includes:

  • Hypodermic needles
  • Cotton balls
  • Rubber strap, shoestring or other type of strap
  • Spoons that may have a black residue on the underside
  • Aluminum foil
  • Straw, typically cut to a short length for snorting
  • Rolling papers for cigarettes
  • Dollar bills that have been rolled up


The Immediate Effects


Shooting up with a needle creates the fastest high with the drug. The initial feeling is a rush of euphoria followed by a sense of calm. The person may also experience a warm sensation. The legs and arms start to feel very heavy, and the person may display difficulties with coordination and may stumble, fall or collapse. The final effect of the drug is a sense of confidence and well-being.

Short-term Side Effects

Once the first rush starts to wear off, the person experiences short-term side effects that indicate that the drug levels in the body are declining. Side effects may include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Itching
  • Nausea and upset stomach
  • Vomiting

Delayed Physical Symptoms

With repeat use, a person who uses the drug may experience delayed physical symptoms, such as:

  • Decreased heart rate
  • Being sleepy and drowsy for many hours
  • Going from a period of sleeping to being awake, known as “nodding”
  • Unclear state of mind
  • Inability to speak and think clearly
  • Decreased breathing rate

Repeat Use of the Drug

As the secondary side effects begin to diminish, the individual is motivated to use again in order to regain the initial sense of well-being and euphoria. Over time, tolerance builds up, and the person needs to use more of the drug or use the drug more often. This is the genesis of drug addiction.

Physical Effects of Long-term, Chronic Use

Long-term and chronic use of the drug damages the body, and the results are that the person experiences painful symptoms that are only alleviated by using heroin again. Indications that a person may be using the drug chronically are:

  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Infections and abscesses on the skin
  • Bruising and needle marks at the injection sites
  • Collapsed veins
  • Heart damage

Withdrawal Symptoms

Going cold turkey to stop using this drug is not recommended. The person can become dehydrated, and this places the person’s health in jeopardy. The symptoms can be so severe that the individual craves the drug to feel better, and this leads to relapse. Medical management is the best approach to detoxing from the drug.

When a person cannot get enough of the drug to alleviate the side effects of withdrawal, the body begins to react. Withdrawal happens in stages and can indicate how long it has been since the person used the drug.

During the first three days, the person may experience:

  • Muscle spasms and pain
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Aggression
  • Nausea and other stomach problems
  • Sweating
  • No appetite
  • Inability to sleep
  • Panic attacks

From day three to day five, the person may experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Shivering
  • Cramping in the stomach
  • Less severe muscle cramping


Because the drug causes so many side effects, some of which are life threatening, medical supervision is the best solution for addressing addiction to this drug. Once the drug has cleared the body and the side effects of withdrawal have been addressed, the person can start an effective program of rehab and recovery.