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What Are the Signs of Heroin Use?

What Are the Signs of Heroin Use?

According to recent studies Heroin addicts in the United States commit more than 50,000,000 crimes per year and their lifetime criminality exceeds 819,000,000 offenses, with theft being the predominant offense. Heroin is an illegal drug that is made from morphine, which comes from opium poppy plants grown in Asia, Mexico, and Columbia. Heroin in its pure form looks like a white powder but heroin sold on the streets looks like a brown powder, rose gray, or sticky black substance(like tar) depending upon how it is processed and what product it is mixed with. Some of the street names for heroin are horse, junk, smack, brown sugar, dope, and tar. This leads to people with signs of heroin use.

Heroin is consumed by injecting, snorting it through the nose, smoking, swallowing it, or inserting it in the rectum or vagina. No matter how heroin is ingested, it crosses the blood-brain barrier quickly and produces a powerful rush of pleasure, followed by a state of drowsiness and relaxation. This may be the sign of heroin use.

How do people get addicted to heroin?

A person might show repeated signs of heroin use literally being in the state of heroin addiction. For someone who is addicted to heroin, everything revolves around the drug. A lot of youngsters are getting addicted to heroin due to factors like academic pressure, adverse childhood events like trauma, abuse, or violence in their early life, low self-esteem, emotional distress, and more.

In the United States, heroin makes up 1.5% of all illicit drug use annually among Americans aged 12 or older, and 80% of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids

Hence people consume heroin for various reasons, such as:

  • To cope with mental sickness such as anxiety and depression
  • To experiment and enjoy Dopamine (neurotransmitter) pleasure
  • To self-medicate physical and chronic injuries.
  • To escape from the stress they are going through
  • To fit in with the environment

When heroin is ingested it is absorbed through the walls of the stomach and intestines and enters the bloodstream. From the bloodstream, it enters the brain, binds to the opioid receptors, and triggers the rush of Dopamine. (It is the neurotransmitter whose one of the functions is to provide the feeling of pleasure and satisfaction). This creates a feeling of exhilaration, relaxation, and pain relief showing the early signs of heroin use.

Early signs of heroin addiction to consider

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), heroin use has been steadily rising since 2007, with the number of people starting to use heroin increasing. Recognizing the signs of heroin addiction in a loved one might be challenging since they may try to conceal or lie about their behavior. However, it is an important step toward getting them the therapy they require. You may look out for the following signs of heroin use:

  • See for the presence of paraphernalia drug that is used to prepare, inject, snort, or smoke heroin
  • Heroin shots leave needle marks, and many users dress in long-sleeved garments to cover their wounds
  • Unusual and constant need for money, financial crisis
  • Changes in appearance include drastic weight loss, poor appetite, skin disorders, bloodshot eyes, and frequent nose bleeds
  • Neglecting to maintain proper personal hygiene
  • Slurred and garbled speech due to heroin effect on CNS affecting their ability to speak clearly
  • Engage in risky adventurous activities when the person is under the influence of heroin
  • Change in their daily routines due to lack of interest, motivation, and responsibility in one’s personal life

Understanding heroin addiction and physical dependency

Heroin addiction is a very chronic disease where people can’t stop using the drug irrespective of the negative consequences surrounding them. They lose their control over themselves and have a strong craving for the drug. This addiction is caused by a combination of factors such as DNA, stress, traumatic experiences, and being affected by the people they surround. It’s similar to a disorder that damages the brain and makes it difficult for people to stop taking heroin.

Physical dependency on heroin is a physiological condition that occurs when the body adjusts to the drug’s presence and requires it to operate normally. When people who are physiologically dependent on heroin find it difficult to quit or lessen their drug usage, they experience heroin withdrawal symptoms. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscular pains, sweating, anxiety, and sleeplessness are some withdrawal symptoms. Physical dependency is not the same as addiction, although it might make quitting the drug more difficult.

Symptoms and signs of heroin use

Heroin addiction can have serious physical and psychological consequences. The substance is highly addictive and can have devastating effects on both physical and mental health, resulting in a variety of social and legal consequences for the user who develops an addiction.

Physical Symptoms of heroin

  • Scars and bruises caused by repeated injections lead to infections and blood-borne diseases like HIV
  • The disability to absorb information, make decisions, and solve issues results in clouded thinking resulting in impaired judgment, memory, and focus of the individual
  • Irritation in the stomach and intestine causes nausea and vomiting. This can result in weight loss due to malnutrition, dehydration, and metabolic changes
  • Reduction in saliva production in the mouth, resulting in a dry and sticky sensation causing tooth decay and gum disease
  • Heaviness and numbness in the arms and legs affect coordination and balance and increase the risk of falling or injuring oneself
  • Slow-down breathing reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the brain and other vital organs, in severe cases leading to brain damage and death

Psychological heroin addiction symptoms

  • Emotional numbing makes the person feel disconnected from the environment around them
  • The inability to think clearly makes it difficult to concentrate, make decisions, and solve problems
  • Experiencing psychosis is a severe mental disorder characterized by a loss of contact with reality, delusions, disorganized thoughts, and hallucinations
  • Change in personality makes the person irritable, anxious, and depressed

Long-term effects of heroin addiction

Heroin can make the body get used to it, so over time, the user takes more of it to feel the same effects you did before. This is called tolerance. Suddenly stopping or lessening the usage of heroin can lead to uncomfortable symptoms, like feeling sick or in pain. This is known as physical dependence. So, people might keep using heroin just to avoid feeling really unwell when they try to quit.

Studies have found that long-term heroin addiction can lead to lasting changes in the physical structure and physiology of the brain, which is hard to reverse. One of these changes can harm something called myelin, which is like a protective coating around the brain’s nerve fibers. This damages different parts of the brain to communicate with each other, resulting in the person’s ability to make good choices, their mood, and how they handle stress.

Overdose of heroin addiction symptoms

When we are in pain the brain has opioid receptors which make natural pain-relief chemicals. To a person who is under the influence of heroin, it attaches to these receptors and makes a person feel really happy and less pain. This encourages the user to overdose leading to death.

Some of the Overdose Signs of Heroines use are:

  • Slowed or abnormal breathing and heart rate,
  • Loss of consciousness and lifeless
  • Bluish or purplish skin especially around the lips and fingernails
  • Cold and sweaty skin
  • Dry and discolored mouth, constipation, and spasms in the abdominal
  • Disorientation and muscle spasm
  • Sleepiness, hypotension, and weakness

Heroin withdrawal symptoms

Most heroin addicts will go to great lengths to avoid heroin withdrawal symptoms, which are extremely unpleasant but not life-threatening. Withdrawal symptoms might also arise after prolonged usage. Physically, heroin withdrawal may resemble the illness. Nausea, diarrhea, a runny nose, achiness, tremors, exhaustion, chills, and sweating are common symptoms. More severe symptoms, such as trouble breathing, sadness, anxiety, and sleeplessness, might also develop.

Treatment and Recovery for Heroin addiction

There are several heroin addiction therapies available, including both behavioral and pharmacological (medication) treatments.

Behavioral treatment

This includes cognitive-behavioral and contingency treatment that can reduce drug use and increase their life skills to handle a stressful environment that triggers intense cravings for drugs.

Behavioral therapy can also improve the efficacy of drugs and help patients stay in treatment for longer periods.

Pharmacological treatment

Medications created to help with opioid addiction work on the same parts of the brain as the addictive drug does, but they are safer and don’t lead to harmful behaviors linked to drug addiction.

Naloxone is used to treat heroin overdose when given immediately.

Methadone and Buprenorphine medications work the same as heroin binding to the opioid receptors in the brain. These medications are safe and last longer than heroin.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

  1. What are the three main signs of heroin use?
  • Having an intense urge to have more drugs
  • Changing social groups, showing unusual behavior, and being secretive
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the user tries to avoid the intake of drugs
  1. What does heroin dependence mean?

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, heroin dependence is a drug use disease that can develop after taking heroin regularly. If you are addicted to heroin, you will have a strong urge to take more of the substance and will struggle to control how much you use.

  1. What is the most common form of treatment for opioid dependence?

Naloxone, Methadone, and Buprenorphine are some of the common forms of treatment for opioid dependence.


Heroin addiction can be a nightmare not only for the individual but also for family members and relationships. As the prevalence of heroin addiction symptoms increases, it’s important to learn about heroin and substance abuse among family members so that everyone, including loved ones, may get the help they need to overcome heroin addiction.  Connect with professionals if you or your loved one is showing signs of heroin use.

A variety of effective treatments are available for heroin addiction, including both behavioral and pharmacological (medications).

Both treatments contribute to the restoration of normalcy in brain function and behavior, resulting in higher employment rates and a decreased risk of HIV and other illnesses, as well as criminal conduct. Although behavioral and pharmacologic therapies may be incredibly beneficial when used alone, research suggests that combining both types of therapy is the most successful method for many people. Medication-assisted therapy, behavioral treatments, and support groups are among the therapeutic possibilities.

Hence it’s important to seek professional help if you or someone you know is struggling with heroin addiction. We, at Calusa Recovery Heroin Treatment help individuals to understand their problems and provide a customized solution to them. Within 72 hours of admission, a biopsychosocial assessment by the Clinical Director is completed and a psychiatrist conducts a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation. Moving forward, each week, clients receive an individual counseling session, with family counseling added to the treatment plan as needed.

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