As of 2016, nearly one million Americans reported that they had used heroin. Unfortunately, this number only continues to rise in the United States, leaving addicts and loved ones feeling hopeless.
But there is hope, and it begins with you.
Whether you are suffering from heroin addiction or watching a loved one go through it, there are ways you can help. The first step in this process is knowing the signs of heroin addiction.
When you know the symptoms, you can help prevent yourself or a loved one from ever becoming seriously addicted.
Interested in learning more? Keep reading to discover the top five signs of heroin addiction.
1. A Suddenly Private Life
Say you have a close friend who has always been outgoing, perky, social, and open about their life.
But one day, out of nowhere, they go off the grid. They stop hanging around you, they stop sharing moments of their life with you, and you feel like you don’t know them anymore.
As sad as it sounds, this is one of the most prominent and early stages of heroin addiction. No matter if you’re a friend or even a family member, people who are addicted to heroin crave every ounce of privacy they can get.
And they will shut you out because of it.
The early symptoms of heroin addiction are behavioral, and this is one behavior you must keep an eye out for. Going private has the potential to happen gradually or all at once, so check in on your loved ones.
2. Dishonest and Risky Behaviors
Another telling sign you or someone you know is struggling with heroin addiction is participating in dishonest, risky behaviors.
You know that specific behaviors can influence a person to become addicted to heroin, but did you know that those behaviors actually have an impact on their addiction as a whole? It’s kind of confusing, so let us break it down for you.
Once someone becomes addicted to heroin, they are going to begin engaging in behaviors that are seriously dangerous.
Some of these behaviors include:
- Stealing money from you or other friends/family members to buy heroin
- Lying, secretiveness, extreme privacy
- Being unable to go places or do things without using
- Sharing needles
- Having unprotected sex with others
- Using heroin at work, school, or in other public settings
- Wearing excessively baggy clothing to hide track marks or other obvious signs of drug use
The list goes on. As the most addictive drug, heroin is dangerous and can cause people who are addicted to do very risky things without even realizing it.
3. Lack of Emotional Regulation
Heroin addiction has serious and deep-rooted effects on the brain. Between creating long-lasting impairment and causing white matter to disintegrate, heroin does a number on any user’s brain.
Because of this, a heroin-dependent individual’s brain is essentially rewired.
A heroin addict might have trouble identifying, addressing, and regulating their emotions, which can be scary for anyone – the addict themself, friends, family members, and even strangers.
Additionally, many addicts use drugs as a way to cope with pre-existing mental health conditions. However, when drugs are introduced as a coping mechanism, it only gives fuel to the negative emotions already within.
4. Physical Changes to the Body
One of the most obvious signs of heroin addiction is witnessing all of the physical changes a user’s body goes through as a result of taking the drug. From short-term to long-term effects, we’ll cover it all.
Now, the severity of these physical changes and effects depends on the individual.
Their sex, weight, health status, pre-existing psychiatric conditions, how much heroin is taken, and the method in which it’s ingested all come into play. But despite these factors, experiencing the effects of heroin use is still possible.
Short-term effects include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Small pupils
- Jumbled thoughts; unable to maintain a clear line of focus
- Flushed skin that feels warm or hot to the touch
- Heavy-feeling limbs
- Slowed breathing and heart rate
- A state of deliriousness or euphoria
- Watery eyes
Remember, all it takes is one time to become addicted to any drug – but especially heroin. After this one use, individuals may crave what they felt and seek out opportunities to use again, and again, and again.
This is referred to as physical dependence.
Once an individual becomes physically dependent upon a drug, they will begin to experience long-term health effects. In the case of heroin, the long-term repercussions may include:
- Liver disease from contracting hepatitis C (sharing dirty or already used needles)
- Increased risk of being exposed to HIV
- Greater chance of contracting other bloodborne viruses
- Kidney disease
- Skin infections, abscesses, or scarring
- Collapsed veins
- Infection of the heart lining or valves
As you can see, the body of someone with a heroin addiction undergoes a lot of tremendous, significant changes.
But if that person has kept their addiction private from the beginning, you may not see any of the changes until it becomes a serious problem – like contracting HIV or hepatitis C.
5. Withdrawal Symptoms
If you don’t know about a friend or family member’s addiction and they are severely ill, seemingly out of nowhere (to you at least), this may be a sign of withdrawal symptoms.
When a heroin addict goes without the drug, they can become violently sick.
Their body has become used to the heroin and may even need it to feel like themselves. If you come across your family member or friend who is extremely ill but you’re not sure why look out for these withdrawal symptoms:
- Muscle spasms
- Abdominal pain
- Severe anxiety or nervousness
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Rapid heart rate
- Harmed respiration or difficulty breathing
The signs of withdrawal can be quite telling. Always make sure to keep an eye out for these specific symptoms.
Heroin Addiction: The Top Five Signs
By knowing the top five signs of heroin addiction, you can help yourself out of it – or, you have the ability to help a loved one who may be struggling. A lot of the time, addicts suffer in silence, out of shame and fear of rejection.
At Clear Day Treatment Center, we reject no one. We are committed to helping you identify the root of your heroin addiction, accepting treatment, and leading a healthy life to recovery.
Ready to get help? Contact us today or call our 24/7 telephone line at (724)-834-7000.