Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Use, Abuse, Addiction & Facts

What is Heroin?

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Heroin is a highly addictive, illegal narcotic that is abused by millions of addicts around the world. Like other opiates, it is made from the resin of the poppy plant. Heroin use blocks the brain’s ability to perceive pain, producing a “downer effect” on the user which induces a state of relaxation and euphoria.

What are some other names for heroin?

Heroin is also known as:

  • Smack
  • Dope
  • Junk
  • Black tar
  • Brown sugar
  • China white
  • Chiva/Cheeba
  • Horse (and Mexican Horse)
  • Number 2

In different regions, it may be known by other street names.

How is Heroin Ingested or Used?

Heroin can be snorted, smoked or injected.2

The Connection Between Prescription Medications and Heroin

Heroin has experienced a shocking resurgence in popularity in the last 20 years due to the frequency with which abusers of opiate medications (like Vicodin and OxyContin) are gravitating to heroin due to it’s ease of attainment.  This trap has happened to so many families and the end result is frequently a fatal overdose.  The user who experiments with achieving pleasurable sensation by “popping pills” can gradually become physically and psychologically dependent on the drugs. Then, when the medications are too difficult to obtain (often costing $50+ per pill and increasingly more regulated and difficult to get), the withdrawal sensations are so unpleasant that the user turns to a solution they would have never imagined they would ever seek out: illegal heroin.

What are the Symptoms of Heroin Use?

Friends and family of a heroin user may be able to notice changes in their loved one when they’re high. A heroin user will be short of breath, small, constricted pupils, and will appear disoriented when they’re high. They may be incoherent or disoriented, seeming completely awake at one moment and passing out, or nodding off the next. Somebody who is high on heroin may appear “heavy” when high – having difficulty even lifting their head.

A heroin user will also keep paraphernalia to use the drug around. There may be needles or syringes around with no medical purposes. You may notice burned silver spoons or aluminum foil with burn marks on them or small plastic bags, with a powdery residue in it.

Of course, as with almost all drugs, the most ever present signs that someone is abusing a drug is their moody and irritable behavior when they are without it.  These symptoms are often overlooked or misconstrued by loved ones.

What Are the Long-Term Effects and Dangers of Heroin Use?

Heroin is a dangerous narcotic drug that can cause death in just one use.

Users who inject the drug run a risk of drug overdose, HIV/AIDs from re-used needles, and bacterial or staph infections from unsanitary conditions.

All users run the danger of getting “bad heroin” that is laced with something poisonous that can have fatal effects. Heroin users are at risk for poor health, frequent skin infections, infections of the heart and heart-related illnesses. Heroin users are at risk for seizures.

Long-term users may suffer from chronic pneumonia, pulmonary diseases, liver disease, blood clots or tissue death resulting from collapsed veins. Others suffer from arthritis and rheumatoid related problems.1

Signs and Symptoms of Full Blown Heroin Dependency/Addiction

Heroin users can become addicted fairly quickly the drug because of its notoriously painful withdrawal.

An addict will have continued drug-seeking behavior that causes problems in their daily life. Users who inject the drug may wear long sleeves in hot weather to hide needle marks. They may get sick a lot, or get skin or heart infections. You may notice that a heroin users has rapidly lost weight and appears pale or sickly.

Obviously, a habitual heroin user will avoid situations in which they will be unable to seek or use the drug: avoiding trips and commitments which require overnight supervision, etc.

A heroin user may have financial problems, legal problems or trouble keeping a job. Their heroin use will also cause dramatic behavior changes, such as poor hygiene. They may seem to have lost motivation and interest in future goals. They may lie to their family and friends and start hanging out with a “new crowd” that seems to have little in common with the interests the person has traditionally displayed.

As they become more dependent on the drug, they will inevitably need cash to continue the drug abuse. They may start stealing from friends and family. Often heroin abusers become increasingly hostile to concerned family members.

What are the Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal?

Heroin addicts often feel compelled to continue using the drug. Known for its intense withdrawal affects and its pain relieving effects, heroin users often fear quitting the drug.

Heroin Withdrawal: The Gates of Hell

“Kicking heroin” (in street parlance) is notoriously painful and difficult. Heroin withdrawal symptoms can start a few hours to one day after sustained use of the drug stops. They may experience intense heroin cravings, sweat profusely, and feels muscle aches, bone aches and intense cramping that causes them to kick their legs. They may run a fever.

If you’re looking to get clean from heroin, you should not attempt to detox on your own. Medical supervision is necessary to make you as comfortable and safe as possible. Withdrawal symptoms following heroin dependence can cause serious medical complications, and sometimes even death.

Getting Help for Heroin Addiction

If you think you or a loved one has a heroin problem, or want to know more about recovering from addiction to heroin and/or other drugs, we’re here to help. You can detox and recover in a safe, supportive environment that’s focused on helping you reclaim your life.

All phone calls are 100% confidential. Contact us at the number above.

1.What are the medical complications of chronic heroin use? available here.
2.Heroin DrugFacts, available here.