How Do I Know If Someone Is Addicted to Heroin?: The Top Signs of Heroin Addiction
Did you know that nearly 49,000 people died of opioid overdoses in the US in 2017?
That’s right – it’s a sobering figure that illustrates the impact of the current opioid epidemic.
Are you worried that a friend or loved one could be suffering from heroin addiction?
Identifying the problem can be tricky, especially if you don’t have experience with drugs yourself.
Luckily, the following signs of heroin addiction are easy to spot, even if you’re not a professional. While these symptoms don’t always mean there’s a drug problem, they’re a good starting point for a frank conversation with your loved one.
1. Appearing Unusually Tired
Does the person you’re worried about seem to be tired at strange times of the day, for no good reason? Do they often appear to ‘nod off’ during conversation?
If you notice someone falling asleep and then jerking awake during a conversation, there’s a chance that they’re using heroin, another opiate, or a benzodiazepine, like Xanax.
Being tired isn’t usually a warning sign if there’s a good reason – like working night shifts, staying up late to study, or having a new baby.
However, if the person has gone from keeping a regular sleep schedule and having plenty of energy to sleeping at odd hours and appearing exhausted, there may be something wrong.
2. Having Small Pupils
Sure that your friend is using some kind of drug, but not certain that it’s heroin?
Opiates are one of the few types of drugs that cause pupils to constrict, leading to a ‘pinpoint’ appearance.
If someone you know exhibits other signs on this list combined with unusually small pupils, there’s a very good chance that they’re using opiates. You can’t be sure that heroin’s the culprit unless you see specific paraphernalia since other opiates, like codeine and oxycodone, can also cause pinned pupils.
Remember that having small pupils is normal in bright sunlight – so be sure to take a look in normal lighting conditions.
3. Changes in Mood and Personality
Has your loved one suddenly become sullen, depressed, or unmotivated? Maybe they’ve lost interest in hobbies or stopped hanging out with friends?
Heroin addiction can quickly take over a person’s life and become the main fixation of their day. Someone who’s addicted to heroin might spend all their time either getting high or working to get their next fix.
This leaves little room for old activities, and the person might feel like they no longer have anything in common with their old friends.
Heroin use can also affect motivation levels, so the person might be content to lie in bed all day when they used to be enthusiastic about work, study, or hobbies.
Mood changes can also be caused by mental health issues, so try not to jump to conclusions if there’s no other evidence of drug use.
4. Becoming Withdrawn and Secretive
Heroin addiction can cause users to become extremely withdrawn and secretive, in an attempt to prevent anyone from finding out about their problem.
If you live with the person you’re worried about, you might notice that they’ve started locking their door more often, or getting angry if anyone enters their space, even for an innocent reason.
The person may also become secretive around their phone, which could hold evidence of drug deals. If they’re using the dark web to purchase drugs, the same will apply to their computer.
If you don’t live with the person, you might notice that they rarely leave their house, are reluctant to have people over, or have stopped replying to texts and phone calls.
If you’re worried about a friend who seems isolated, don’t stop reaching out to them, and be there for them if they do decide to open up.
5. Track Marks
Have you noticed marks, bruises, or abscesses on the person’s body?
These are all signs that they could be injecting drugs, although heroin isn’t the only drug that can be used this way.
It’s typical to look for track marks on the inside of a person’s arm, but this isn’t the only place people inject. You should also be on the lookout for marks on their hands, feet, legs, and neck.
It’s particularly common for people to inject in places other than the arm in later stages of addiction when their veins are already damaged.
Be aware that marks on the skin could be caused by a skin condition or other issue – they aren’t always signs of IV drug use.
6. Heroin Paraphernalia
If you’ve noticed some of the previous symptoms, it’s a good idea to keep your eyes open for any heroin paraphernalia that could confirm your suspicions.
If the person is smoking heroin, you might find tin foil with black marks, lighters, and pipes or cut straws, which are used to inhale the drug.
If they’re injecting, you might find needles, spoons, metal cookers, lights, belts or arm ties, and alcohol wipes. You may also find small empty bags, bags of powder, or small ‘balloons’ – colorful wraps which are used to store heroin.
Finding any of these items in combination with earlier signs is a definite cause for concern and something you should raise with your loved one in a non-judgmental way.
7. Withdrawal Symptoms
Most people struggling with heroin addiction will eventually run out of the drug and begin to suffer withdrawal symptoms.
To the outside observer, it might look as though they have a cold or the flu during early withdrawal. As withdrawal progresses, symptoms will get worse, and it might seem like the person has food poisoning or a stomach virus.
Common symptoms include:
- Runny nose
If you notice your loved suffering from these symptoms and then very suddenly ‘getting well’ again, they may be struggling with addiction.
How to Spot the Signs of Heroin Addiction
Many of the signs of heroin addiction are only a cause for concern when they’re combined with other red flags.
Look out for any dramatic changes in the behavior, appearance, and health of the person you’re worried about, and keep an open mind.
If you think they’re addicted to heroin, raise the issue in a kind, compassionate way, and let them know you’re there to support them.
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