How to Spot the Signs of Heroin Addiction
Do you suspect a loved one might be using heroin? These tell-tale signs can help you be sure whether they really are.
Heroin is one of the most dangerous and sinister of all addictions. Its potential to destroy futures, ruin households and, in many cases, take lives makes it one of the most feared drugs among loved ones.
Luckily, heroin use can be easy to spot if you know what to look for, even before addiction sets in, if you are vigilant. That said, many people are extremely adept at hiding their heroin use and may strongly resist any attempts to help them get heroin addiction treatment, so the more you know about heroin addiction the better.
Spotting the signs early and approaching your loved one in an appropriate and supportive manner can make all the difference in helping them get the treatment they need.
Physical Signs of Heroin Use
Heroin users display a range of tell-tale physical signs:
Heroin users’ pupils noticeably constrict to pinpoint size for four to five hours after use. This is one of the most distinctive physical side effects of heroin and other opioids such as morphine and fentanyl.
After an an initial, short-lived rush of euphoria after taking the drug, many users will then enter an hours-long state where they drift in and out of consciousness, known as “nodding”. Many regular users will also appear sluggish and lethargic even when not using the drug, so look out for indicators such as slow or slurred speech, excessive sleeping, or sleeping at strange times of the day.
These refer to the marks, scabs, bruises and scars that develop from prolonged intravenous heroin use. They are most commonly found on the arms where veins are accessible and plentiful, though some will inject between their toes and other parts of the body to avoid detection.
Once heroin takes hold, most users’ personal appearance and hygiene goes downhill pretty quickly. A dishevelled and unkempt appearance, especially in someone who previously looked after themselves, should raise a red flag. This can also be accompanied by an unhealthy appearance, including poor complexion, pallor and sores on the face.
Once a person begins to use heroin, there behaviour can change quickly and dramatically — generally for the worse. Any of the following behaviours can indicate your loved one may be using heroin:
Depression & Mood Swings
Many heroin users withdraw from their usual social circles and the people around them. This can be accompanied by depression, mood swings and erratic behaviour. As they become more and more isolated they will increasingly seek out the company of other heroin users and, in some cases, begin to use more heavily to block out their guilt and other emotional issues.
Lying & Stealing
Heroin is an expensive habit. Stories abound of users lying and stealing from those closest to them to feed this habit, sometimes ending up in complete financial ruin and, eventually, prison. In most cases this starts small, with a lie here and there and small items or cash going missing. Invariably it will get continually worse until your loved one gets the help they need.
Run-ins With the Law
Aside from the fact that the possession and use of heroin can lead to severe penalties, many users turn to stealing outside their immediate circles to feed their habit and many end up behind bars. The sad fact is that prison is the closest thing to rehab that many heroin users get.
In most cases heroin is either injected or smoked and knowing the paraphernalia involved is one of the best ways to determine whether your loved one is using. While these are not all exclusive to heroin use, they are indisputable physical proof that your loved one has a drug problem of some kind:
Hypodermic needles accompanied by a burned spoon should raise a major red flag. They will often be stored together in a small box or case along with items such as cotton filters, lighters or candles, and belts and cords used to help users find veins more easily.
Tinfoil & Pipes
Heroin users who choose to smoke the drug will usually use aluminium foil or small glass pipes. The foil will often either be burnt or rolled up into tubes. Pipes will also show evidence of burning.
If you come across the drug itself, it will often be wrapped in small plastic baggies or uninflated balloons, sometimes marked with logos or distinctive artwork. Heroin can look like a small lump of black tar or a fine white, or more commonly brown, powder.
Getting Your Loved One the Help They Need
Knowing the short- and long-term effects of heroin addiction will help you spot the warning signs and make you more sympathetic to the needs of your loved one. If the signs are there to suggest they are using, it is time to guide them towards the help they need. When you do confront them on their heroin use it is essential to go in prepared. Do your research so you can present a range of possible treatment options. It might be just the help and support they were looking for.
Bear in mind that users suffer near unbearable withdrawal symptoms when coming off heroin. Cravings, muscle pain, cramps, vomiting and itching are all part of early recovery, usually lasting for up to three days. These sever symptoms make it very difficult for users to give up on their own.
Inpatient heroin addiction treatment remains the most effective way of helping a loved one get free of the drug. Twenty four-hour care in a controlled environment followed by cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness meditation therapy, group individual counselling and physical fitness support will give your loved one the very best chance of a full and lasting recovery.
The Cabin Singapore has a proven track record of helping heroin users get and stay clean. Contact us today to find out how we can help your loved one break free of their heroin addiction.