Simply stated, heroin addiction is a real-life nightmare for everyone, especially for those closest to the addict. You may spend every day hoping and praying that “today” isn’t the day you get the inevitable phone call informing you that your loved one was found dead from an overdose, gunshot, or one of the many other causes of death that are often associated with living the lifestyle of an addict. It’s not easy feeling like you’re just standing by and watching someone you love spiral out of control. It is the most hopeless and helpless feeling you can imagine. The aftermath is horrible, friends and family often blame themselves for not having done absolutely everything necessary to save them.
Heroin addiction is an epidemic that’s destroying lives all around the world that almost always involves the painful portrayal of the path of destruction it left behind. Many times we will hear the friends and family make a wish, and surprisingly it’s not a wish that it never happened in the first place, it’s that they wish they could’ve caught it earlier so they could have better helped their loved one get the proper heroin addiction treatment before it snowballed out of control. The fact they could overlook the opportunity to wish for an entirely different situation, one where heroin addiction was never part of the equation, speaks volumes to the level of responsibility with which they burden themselves.
So, is there a way to catch it earlier? Is it possible to see the signs of heroin addiction before it’s too late, so we can not only help our loved ones, but we can save ourselves from the wrath of heroin addiction as well? At Clearbrook Treatment Centers, we certainly like to believe this is possible. We’re sharing common signs of heroin addiction and insight on how to tell if someone is on heroin or withdrawing from the drug.
Recognizing the Signs of Heroin Addiction
Most of us would like to believe that we know our loved ones so well that we would recognize the signs of heroin addiction in our loved one based on our sheer intuition, but as you’ll see in the “7 Deadly Signs of Heroin Addiction” outlined below, you’re loved one in more than likely in tune with you as well. Lying and cheating become a necessity for an addict to continue their path of what they believe is filled with nothing but good times. To help you with detecting the early signs of addiction, PLEASE read the following and seek out a professional drug rehab the instant you begin to question the situation. Don’t fall victim to lies and deceit. Here are some signs of heroin use and addiction to look for…
1. Heroin Drug Paraphernalia
Syringes | Syringes are the most commonly used method of heroin use and, therefore, one of the common signs of heroin addiction. Injection allows the drug to quickly enter the bloodstream and brain. You may not always find needles since drug users tend to protect these “precious commodities,” but keep your eyes open for the orange lids that were originally packaged with the needles. Don’t be afraid to look in the trash bins inside and outside of your home. Look behind toilets and under the bathroom rugs as the lids can easily miss the trash can and end up somewhere unexpected to the heroin user since they will be distracted by getting high rather than paying attention to small details.
Bent Spoons | Where there are needles, there are probably spoons close by. Addicts who inject often use spoons to mix and ‘cook’ heroin to make it into a liquid form. Water bottle lids have also been used for this same process. If you’ve been finding water bottles that are still filled with water, but are missing lids, this might be a sign of heroin addiction.
Small Baggies/Deflated Balloons | Little baggies with stamps or unique designs are commonly used to package heroin for distribution. The stamp or design will often define where the heroin came from or what kind of heroin it is. It’s easy to simply dispose of one of these as if it were a candy wrapper if you were to come across one on the floor near a garbage can, but if you are already questioning the behavior of your loved one, start taking the time to notice these kinds of details that can potentially offer you the necessary insight you’ll need to get them the help they need like a heroin addiction rehab. Unlike the small Ziplock-style baggies found with cannabis sales, heroin baggies will often feel slightly waxy and more durable. Deflated balloons are also used as a way to transport the drug, usually very deflated and tied.
Glass Bowl/Aluminum Foil/Rolled Up Dollar Bill | Aside from injections, heroin can also be smoked and/or snorted. For those addicts that choose to smoke heroin, they often use small glass pipes known as bowls, or a makeshift pipe rolled from aluminum foil, as their smoking device. Some items you might find relative to a heroin user that snorts: rolled up dollar bills that create a funnel for the drugs to pass through upon inhaling through a nostril, razor blades, Driver’s Licenses, or bank/credit cards, all of which are used for cutting heroin into a powder-like consistency so that it can be easily snorted. Take a look in their wallets to see if there’s signs of residue on their cards. Look for razor blades that have been removed from their casings and whether they have residue.
2. Behavioral Changes Associated with Heroin Addiction
Mood Swings | One of the many signs and symptoms of heroin addiction is a tendency for mood swings. Users often find themselves aggravated easily. This could be a sign of withdrawals and/or symptoms of addiction. It can be difficult to communicate with an addict if this occurs. If you find yourself wondering why this is happening more often than normal, it might be time to look further into the situation rather than ignoring it. If you are going through this, then this is the time to reach out to a drug addiction specialist to get advice on how to address this. The last thing you want to do is poorly communicate your concerns to a loved one and end up causing more harm than good. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
Lack of hygiene | It requires a conscious effort to manage your personal hygiene; unfortunately, many drug users will start to slack off when it comes to this as a result of their preoccupied or distracted, state of mind. Although this sounds outrageous, addicts will sometimes avoid showering because they believe that cleaning the skin where drugs may be seeping into their pores means they will lose their high as a result. If your loved one was someone who routinely takes care of themselves, and all of a sudden you’re noticing a change in their priorities about their hygiene, it’s well worth looking into. If it’s not relative to drug addiction, it might be a sign of depression, which can in fact be a segue to drug use. Either way, ignoring this very noticeable change for the worse isn’t a good idea.
Insomnia | Another one of the many signs of heroin use and addiction is abnormal sleeping habits. Heroin addicts have often been compared to vampires in regard to their sleeping behaviors. Their addiction usually keeps them up until late into the night when it’s easier to slip through the shadows and score their next fix. Though nighttime isn’t necessarily a struggle for them since that’s ideally their ‘party time’; their problem is the daytime. After being up all night, they’ll need to figure out how they’re going to function during the day when the world is most active, when their family and friends are awake, when their job requires them to be at work or school requires them to be in class. It’s no mystery where this could lead them. They quickly realize they need to find a solution for how to stay awake all day. Their solution is more drugs. To many drug users, insomnia will prolong the effects of heroin because it gives them a euphoric feeling similar to that of an actual high they might experience when taking drugs. This is a serious matter that can often be seen with drug addicts that are currently enrolled in school or have a full-time career that they are trying to preserve through their battle with heroin addiction.
Lack of Motivation | A drug addict doesn’t have much on their mind other than the next time they’re going to get high or how they’re going to score their next fix, and where it’s going to come from. That said, if they’re not thinking about those things, they’re likely already high and don’t care about much else anyways. This hard and unfortunate truth is something that is better recognized rather than written off as a “she’s just going through a phase” or “he just likes to keep to himself these days” kind of false acceptance. Keep your eyes open for the outstanding times when this person would normally prioritize their attendance at a family event but then doesn’t show up. If they suddenly become irrational with their excuses and almost defensive about anything that slightly seems like an interrogation to them regarding their sudden change in behavior, take notice.
They Just Don’t Seem Right | Understanding drug abuse can be difficult when you are not an addict yourself. You may begin to notice their stories don’t make sense, their memory seems more spotty than normal, or their ability to process thoughts becomes distracted by other thoughts. They may also become more secretive, hiding in the bathroom or out of sight for long periods of time. As this happens, they may attempt to use their charm to deflect, making jokes about their sudden flaws to distract you from the obvious. They may make a comment about how tired they are after the long day at work, when in fact it is a Sunday and they didn’t even have work that day.
3. Financial Issues Heroin Addicts Face
Always Out of Money, Or So They Say | One giveaway sign of heroin use and addiction is their critical financial situation. A drug addict needs money to buy drugs. When it comes to choosing between paying their bills or getting high, more often than not, the drug user will make their heroin addiction their first priority. One of the many signs of heroin use is that the person is out of money and far behind on their bills. It’s not easy for a drug addict to ask for money without a reason since they often have a sense of paranoia about whether someone has caught on to their antics. They need to be methodical about how they will ask. One of the manipulation tactics that some addicts will attempt is using the fact that they have fallen behind on their bills, as they’ll suddenly have proof to take to someone to show them that they are truly in need of help and that the situation is real. Don’t fall for this, and certainly do not give them cash. If you absolutely must, make your payment directly to the debtor. This way you can ensure you didn’t just hand them money to go purchase more drugs. If possible, keep a copy of the bill to ensure that he or she doesn’t take this to the next family member or friend with the same request in order to score cash.
Sudden Depletion of a Large Amount of Money | You may notice that someone who was financially stable at one point has suddenly begun asking to borrow money. Similar to shopping at a wholesale membership grocery store, some drug dealers will offer their buyers a bulk discount. Although the per package pricing might be actually saving them money, they’ll need to buy a lot more up front, which means they’ll be spending a lot more money out of pocket than they normally would with their dealer. Once the drug addict realizes the bulk savings, they’ll often feel compelled to continue to buy their drugs this way every time, thus the rapid loss of finances.
Missing Money/Items | Take a daily inventory of your belongings when in doubt. Once they’ve exhausted their savings, they’ll need to resort to something else they can turn into cash. This means jewelry, art, and other expensive items. Remember, they are not in their right mind and their priorities are completely out of sorts. It is not uncommon for a husband to take his wife’s engagement ring and sell it at a pawn shop just to score some quick cash. This is where it usually starts, so if you can catch them doing this, you might be saving them from a lengthy stay in the State or Federal Correctional system. Otherwise, they move on to other people’s homes, cars, and then eventually they may think it’s worth it to rob a convenient store at midnight. The reality is that they need their drugs, and they’re willing to do anything to get them. Be very aware as this is a strong signal of heroin addiction. If it’s not because of drugs, there’s likely to be some other negative influence behind this activity that’s leading them to an unfortunate situation regardless.
Unexplained/Expensive items | Once an addict begins stealing, they will ideally continue doing so until they meet their demise. Something that can raise an immediate flag about their shenanigans is an expensive item such as a new watch that stands out like a sore thumb. Since it’s not likely they could afford this item, it’s highly likely they stole it and are waiting for the opportunity to sell or pawn it for cash.
4. Physical Signs of Heroin Addiction
Needle Marks, Pockmarks, Scabs and Small Bruises | Needle marks, a.k.a. track marks will usually be small red marks and could also be surrounded by bruises. Pockmarks are scars left after picking a scab similar to marks left from acne and pimples. When the same location is used multiple times for injection, you will start to notice scabbing. You may see heroin track marks on hands or feet, and pockmarks from drugs on the person’s face where they have been picking at scabs.
Weight Loss | Heroin track marks aren’t the only physical sign of addiction. After long periods of use, you will notice that the user will appear to have lost weight, but not in a healthy way. This is one of the biggest physical signs of heroin addiction. They’ll more than likely appear fatigued and suffering from malnutrition. This is usually caused by a lack of appetite, sleep, and ambition as explained earlier.
Discoloration of the Skin | A user’s skin will appear pale. This is caused by a lack of hygiene and poor nutrition. Drugs can also lower your heart rate, which lowers the amount of blood flow through the body and can cause a change in the complexion of your skin tone.
Bags Under the Eyes | Another one of the physical signs of heroin addiction to look out for are baggy eyes. After long periods of use, users will begin to develop bags or dark circles under their eyes from over-exhaustion as a result of little-to-no sleep. A heroin addict’s eyes will have a distinctly exhausted look.
Toes | The skin in between the toes is often used as an injection point, especially in the beginning stages of heroin addiction, to hide track marks and scarring.
Wears socks/long sleeves in heat | Users with visible track marks will usually attempt to hide their marks by wearing apparel that covers them, and although mostly suitable for winter temperatures, they’ll often continue dressing in these clothes even during the summer months. This might be an immediate flag for someone who used to be a summer apparel fanatic, and now seems to hide every square inch of their body.
5. Physical Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal and Use
Unconsciously Conscious | While witnessing someone during the deepest stage of his or her heroin high, their eyes will most likely remain tightly closed and they will seem almost unresponsive to your communication. Following this stage, it’s common they will become more responsive, however; their level of reasoning will most likely be jaded as they will become very paranoid and appear very nervous with the activity taking place around them.
Dilated Pupils | While under the influence of a substance such as heroin, users’ pupils will become pinpoint-sized, also known as ‘pinned’. They will often avoid eye contact while high since their ability to focus is altered and they’re aware that this can expose the fact that they are high.
Excessive Itching | It is common for opiate users to show excessive itching all over the body. This is caused by an excessive amount of histamine released on the receptors, which inherently causes users to become very itchy as if they were having an allergic reaction of some sort.
Arms/Legs Appear Heavy | Heroin users will often appear exhausted. They will begin nodding off and noticeably seem lethargic, as if their arms and other extremities are too heavy to lift. They’ll say they’re coming down with something like a cold, and they’ll demand to be left alone so they can sleep it off.
Constant Chills | While withdrawing, heroin will often cause users to have the nauseous sensation of chills running throughout the body as if they’re on the verge of getting sick with the flu or something similar.
6. Breaking the Law
Suspicious Activity | Drug addicts have to buy their drugs from someone, and somewhere. That’s inevitable, and because it’s not legal, that someone and somewhere is probably a shady person in a bad place. The police spend a great deal of their time investigating suspected dealers and are always on the lookout for possible informants. Addicts are prime targets for the police since they’re usually more desperate and reckless than the dealers are. Addicts are likely to lead the police directly to a buyer and thus will often set up surveillance outside of a known addict’s house so they can monitor their every move with the hope that the addict will lead to a drug dealer. If you have suddenly noticed an increased police presence around your home, or there are suspicious people and/or vehicles on your street at all times of the day and night, it’s possible your loved one is under investigation and it may be time for you to get more inquisitive about their recent activities. If they have shown other signs of addiction and know this is happening, they’re probably in danger. A Pennsylvania treatment center like ours will help you address the situation before it goes any further.
Spending Time in Undesirable Areas | Keep an eye on where your loved one is spending their time. If there is an area that’s known for drug activity and they suddenly seem to have a handful of best friends that live there, then this is probably a sign that there’s a problem.
7. Social Disconnect with Heroin Addicts
Irresponsible | While under the constant influence of drugs, it is common for a drug addict to lose track of time and become irresponsible with certain obligations to those around him or her. Picking up their sister’s kids from school was an obvious priority that quickly became irrelevant as soon as they became distracted with an opportunity to get high. As this sort of behavior becomes consistent, and they continue to fabricate more excuses and lies, they’ll most certainly begin to lose touch with what was once important to them. They are often late to events, they’ll lack ambition, and will frequently start to forget appointments or important dates altogether.
At the Workplace | A drug user will stand out amongst the workforce; they’ll be the one that’s starting to slack off with their tasks. They’re likely to appear agitated or irritated, and quite often they will easily become discouraged with anything that seems to conflict with what they’re feeling.
Family | You may notice the social butterfly of the family has recently stopped coming to family outings and events. Drug users can often begin feeling embarrassed by their addiction and keep themselves away from other loved ones. This can be a struggle for them at first because although they are aware of the love they have for their family and friends, that can quickly escape them as they turn to the drugs for comfort and distraction. A family education program for addiction may be able to help both the addict and you.
Friendships | As a friend of a user, it is very important to ask the person about their heroin addiction and make as many attempts to get them help as you can. If your friend recently became part of the wrong crowd or has seemed to disconnect from their normal friends, it wouldn’t hurt to ask why.
What to Do if Your Loved One Is a Heroin Addict – Get them Heroin Addiction Treatment Today
If you noticed that your loved one is exhibiting many of these signs and symptoms of heroin addiction, get them help today. Our inpatient detox center has over 40 years of experience in treating chemical dependency and alcoholism. Just a short car ride away from New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia, Clearbrook Treatment Centers offer each patient the opportunity to recover in the serene mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Here, your loved one will gain the knowledge and tools necessary to achieve lasting sobriety. Contact us today at 888-280-4763 for more information about our inpatient rehab programs in Pennsylvania