What are the Signs of Heroin Abuse?

Signs of Heroin Use

In 2015, 13,000 people in the U.S. died from a heroin overdose. The drug is one of the most addictive and dangerous street drugs in the country, destroying families and communities, and taking lives. Despite the known dangers, millions of people continue to use and abuse heroin in record numbers. In 2017, up to half a million people aged and older reported using heroin at least once in their lifetime.

Heroin is so addictive because the drug will completely rewire a person’s neural pathways. In addition, the drug causes painful and distressing withdrawal symptoms, making it incredibly difficult to quit. Fortunately, detox centers and rehabilitation facilities can help people beat their addiction to heroin. Medical detox and rehab centers can give users replacement drugs to curb cravings and block the addictive euphoria that heroin causes.

Who is most at-risk of abusing heroin?

Heroin addiction and abuse often coincide with at least one other drug addiction. In many cases, people who abuse heroin did not start that way. The slide to heroin abuse usually begins with prescription opiate dependence. Research from the CDC indicates that the following demographics are the most at-risk of heroin addiction:

  • Caucasians
  • People between the ages of 18 and 25
  • Urban demographics
  • People who make less than 20,000 in annual household income
  • People who’ve abused prescription painkillers in the past year

Surveys on heroin use from the CDC show that almost everyone who self-reports heroin use also reports using at least one other drug. When someone is addicted to more than one drug, they are considered a polydrug user. This makes addiction even more complicated to treat, but it’s not impossible.

People who struggle with alcohol addiction, marijuana use, and cocaine are some of the most at-risk of becoming addicted to heroin. But people who abuse prescription opiate drugs are at the highest risk of turning to heroin. Prescription opiates hijack the brain’s neural pathways in much the same ways that heroin does. When someone abuses opiate drugs, they can quickly exhaust their supply. Heroin can be easier to find in poor, urban areas and it is also cheaper than black market prescription opiates.

Men and women abuse opiates and heroin in roughly equal numbers. The drugs affect people in much the same way, and heroin isn’t a drug that discriminates.

What are the signs of heroin addiction?

Drug addiction has many different signs and symptoms. There are behavioral, emotional, physical, and mental drug addiction symptoms that occur in short-term and long-term heroin addiction. When someone starts using heroin, they can quickly become addicted to the effects of the drug. As they continue to use the drug, they will build up a tolerance to heroin. They will need to use more and more of the drug as their tolerance builds. Without the substance, physical and mental withdrawal side effects occur, and these are incredibly painful and distressing.

The behavioral symptoms of heroin addiction can include the following:

  • Taking more and more of the drug even if they want to cut back or stop
  • Failing to engage in usual activities because of drug use
  • Social isolation
  • Using heroin to alleviate physical or emotional withdrawal symptoms

There are also many different emotional warning signs of heroin abuse:

  • Fatigue and brain fog
  • Lack of motivation
  • Anxiety and fearfulness
  • Sudden, intense bursts of energy
  • Moodiness
  • Sudden, unexplained changes in personality

The physical symptoms of heroin use can include the following, and may vary in degree and intensity, depending on how long someone has abused the drug:

  • Flushing
  • Heaviness in the extremities
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Physical signs of taking the medication, including track marks on the skin

Friends and family may also notice a loved one experiencing financial difficulties, or missing work or school because of heroin. They may even see drug paraphernalia associated with heroin use. Needles, tourniquets, and spoons are some of the tools used to get high. Unlike other drugs, heroin does not smell when it is burned or heated.

What should someone do if they notice these changes in a loved one?

If someone suspects a friend or family member is abusing heroin, it’s crucial that they encourage that person to get help for their addiction. In many cases, the person may not be ready to admit that they need help, and they may become angry, deny their addiction, rationalize their drug use, or try to avoid the topic.

It’s best to avoid negative, blaming or judgemental accusations and dialogue. Instead, give examples of how their drug use is harming them. Approaching the topic in this way can help them realize that they need to seek treatment.

Offering support is critical at this time. But being supportive does not mean that a family member or loved one is encouraging addiction. Support helps to establish trust in the relationship and can give people the encouragement they need to reach out to a treatment center.

Why is it important to be aware of the signs of addiction?

One of the most significant risks associated with heroin use is the risk of contracting bloodborne diseases such as HIV and AIDs. Drug abuse leads people to engage in risky behaviors, and people who abuse heroin are at-risk of sharing dirty needles.

Heroin abuse leads to increased tolerance quickly. It can be very easy for someone to overdose on heroin. Also, street heroin can be mixed with incredibly powerful synthetic opiates, which significantly increase the risk of an overdose.

Long-term heroin abuse can cause lung and heart infections, and also lead to bowel disorders, and collapsed veins. Research also indicates that heroin abuse can affect someone’s ability to made decisions, regulate their behavior, and deal with stress.

If you or a loved one are struggling with heroin addiction, it’s never too late to get help. Please speak to one of our qualified drug abuse counselor at Mission Harbor today to explore your options for heroin abuse. A licensed drug treatment facility can help someone detox from heroin safely and with minimal discomfort and pain.

The facilities at Mission Harbor are staffed with trained experts to best assist patients with their mental health issues. We are capable of dealing with any and all cases with a licensed staff, equipment, and approved techniques. Our mission is to help those who want to help themselves, and we support your decision in seeking help.

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