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The Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

Signs of heroin addiction

April 27, 2021

Heroin is one of the most addictive substances ever discovered. Although many try it out of curiosity, they very quickly get drawn into the vicious cycle of regular use. You only need to take heroin a few times for the signs of heroin addiction to be exhibited. The signs of heroin addiction have been known for over 100 years.

Heroin is administered in a variety of ways – by snorting, smoking, inhaling fumes from foil, or injecting into a vein. In the body, it almost instantly transforms into morphine that binds to receptors in the brain. These receptors, in turn, control the perception of pain and the reward system. Under the influence of heroin, the pain disappears, and the influx of pleasant emotions intensifies.

If treatment for heroin addiction is not started in time, the problem becomes chronic. With it comes an increase in tolerance, leading addicts to abuse larger volumes each time. It results in severe symptoms of physical dependence and affects mental health. Along with addiction, an overdose is another risk of heroin abuse. 

This article will point you to the most recognizable symptoms of heroin addiction.

Heroin addiction can do a lot to destroy the life of an addict. When their abuse of the drug spins out of control, an overdose is always a risk.

Signs and symptoms of heroin addiction

When a person has a heroin addiction, some signs can point to this. Relatives, friends, and other observers may be able to see that an individual has a heroin addiction based on these.

These signs and symptoms of heroin addiction can be divided into several sub-categories. Some of these appear only in the short-term while others are more long-term. Some affect the individual physically, while others are social, psychological, or behavioural.

These divisions help to identify addiction if you ever come across a close person showing questionable behaviour.

What are the early signs of heroin use?

Some signs of heroin addiction appear earlier than others, and the first set to show up tends to be related to behaviour. Once a social person, your loved one isolates himself more and becomes secretive. You may notice them with new friends and using new words.

Also, their dressing habits change. As heroin is usually injected intravenously, users of this drug wear trousers and long-sleeve shirts at all times of the year, even in hot weather. In this way, they try to hide the scars and bruises from injection spots.

Using large quantities of perfume, fresheners and scented candles in their room is another way to hide consumption at the onset. These signs are seen earlier on when the addict is still concerned with covering up their drug use.

Suspicious behaviour is accompanied by a lack of money. An addict may ask for money frequently, sell things they own or steal money and valuables from those around them.

Physical symptoms of heroin abuse

Similar to the psychological symptoms, these can also be divided into short-term and long-term physical signs of heroin use.

Signs of heroin addiction also depend on the route of administration. Someone who smokes heroin will have damaged oral mucosa, as well as traces of burns on the mouth or fingers. Nasal bleeding is often with snorting, and in addition to leaving marks, intravenous consumption leads to vein problems.

Short-term physical symptoms

These physical signs of heroin addiction occur within the first few hours following abuse:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Itching
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Reduced breathing
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Constipation
  • Constricted pupils
  • Dry mouth

Long-term physical symptoms

Many of the long-term signs of heroin abuse occur as a result of the direct damage to health that the drug does, or result from complications from the route of administration.

  • Chronic constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Skins abscesses and sores, due to intravenous heroin use
  • Lung diseases like pneumonia and lung abscesses
  • Chronic cough, due to smoking heroin
  • Infection of blood vessels
  • Dental problems like rotten teeth and gum disease
  • Infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis, and HIV, due to sharing of needles

Get a free online consultation with a medical expert to learn how to manage these symptoms for you or your loved one >>>

Psychological symptoms of heroin abuse

These symptoms can be divided into short-term and long-term symptoms.

Short-term psychological symptoms

These symptoms tend to occur within a matter of days after using heroin:

  • Confusion
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Impaired decision-making
  • Drowsiness
  • Inattention
  • Loss of appetite

Long-term psychological symptoms

These symptoms are long-term and occur due to significant changes that heroin makes to the neurochemistry:

Behavioural symptoms of heroin abuse

The behavioural symptoms of heroin abuse are some of those which show earliest into an addiction.

  1. They may ask for money frequently or sell and steal valuables to fund the habit.
  2. They may lie more about their whereabouts and activities.
  3. They change their style of dressing to hide signs of their drug abuse.
  4. They may neglect hobbies or other pastimes that they previously engaged frequently in.
  5. They no longer pay as much attention to their hygiene.

Social symptoms of heroin abuse

Socially, some things point to heroin abuse. These typically arise due to how the drug dominates the user’s life. It takes centre stage and other things begin to suffer.

  1. They isolate themselves from family and stay on their own as much as they can.
  2. They have new friends or people that they spend their time with. 
  3. They neglect previously valuable personal relationships.
  4. Frequent encounters with the law.
  5. They may be truant from school or work.
  6. Their performance at work or school declines.

Atypical side effects of heroin abuse

Immediately after administering heroin, some users may experience some effects which most people do not. These are the atypical side effects of the drug. These include the following:

  • Headache
  • Sudden anxiety or panic
  • Chest pain
  • Increased heart rate and palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tremors

Signs of a heroin overdose

When an addict uses a large amount of heroin at once, they may overdose on it. This can be life-threatening if care is not taken immediately. The following are the signs of heroin intoxication or overdose:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Drowsiness and difficulty staying awake
  • Low blood pressure
  • Very slow heartbeat
  • Bluish fingers or lips
  • Muscle spasms
  • Delirium
  • Coma

If you have noticed any of these heroin signs and symptoms with a family member, seek the help of Dr Vorobjev clinic’s expert team. Together, we will motivate your loved one to register for heroin addiction treatment because with us there is no fear and no pain of dealing with addiction.

Complete heroin withdrawal is done using modern addiction treatment methods and with the constant supervision of world-renowned physicians and psychiatrists. You will not feel the pain and other harmful effects of getting rid of the addiction during the treatment.

Get your chance to get a normal life, even if you almost lost hope. For sure, addiction can be beaten. Thousands of healthy and rehabilitated patients are evidence of this. You could be one of them.

Get a free and confidential online consultation to discuss treatment options and outcomes with an expert of the clinic >>> 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can heroin overdose kill?

Yes, it can. Heroin is an opioid drug and one of the major effects of this class of drugs is that they reduce the respiratory rate. An overdose can cause the breathing to completely stop, and without immediate medical attention, the person can die.

Which means of using heroin is the most dangerous?

Heroin is dangerous in all its forms, no matter how it is taken. Each route of administration comes with its potential side effects. However, intravenous use is associated with infectious diseases which can be severe.

How long does treating heroin addiction take?

The initial stage of treating heroin addiction is detox, which takes up to 2 weeks at the clinic. It is not over after this period though. The patient will undergo rehabilitation for a full recovery within outpatient support, which goes on for at least a year after discharge.

Published on April 27, 2021
Dr Vorobjev Clinic team

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