Signs of Heroin Use
The signs and symptoms of heroin addiction are often subtle, and it’s easy to hide them from friends and family. They can also be easily mistaken for other issues, such as a mental illness or simply bad decision-making.
These signs can be easy to overlook, especially if you’re unfamiliar with them. If you know what to look for, you can catch the signs early and get your loved ones the help they need.
Keep reading to find out more about the red flags for opiate use, as well as effective forms of treatment for heroin at Icarus!
Understanding Heroin Addiction: Learn About Heroin Dependence
Heroin is an illegal drug. It’s made from morphine, which is extracted and made from the seedpod of a certain type of opium poppy plant. Heroin can take the form of a white or brown powder or a black sticky substance known as “black tar heroin.”
Heroin is usually injected, sniffed, or smoked. It enters the brain quickly and binds to opioid receptors. This action causes the release of large amounts of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control pleasure and pain signals in the brain. The flood of dopamine produced by heroin leads to an intense feeling of euphoria, making it highly addictive.
With prolonged heroin use, physical dependence and tolerance development may occur. Tolerance occurs when heroin users become physically dependent and would need more heroin to produce the same effect.
Withdrawal symptoms occur when heroin use is stopped or decreased. These symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable, and they may even be life-threatening. These unpleasant withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Profuse sweating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal cramps
Heroin withdrawal can be highly uncomfortable and painful, and it can cause flu-like symptoms, anxiety, and depression. These unpleasant symptoms can make it hard to quit without professional help. That’s why taking action is important when signs of heroin addiction are noticed.
The Causes and Risk Factors of Heroin Overdose
Much is still unknown about what causes heroin addiction. However, the most commonly cited causes include:
- Brain chemistry: Changes in the brain’s structure and function may make some people more vulnerable to heroin abuse than others.
- Genetics: A family history of addiction can make someone more likely to become addicted to drugs or alcohol.
- Psychological factors: Many people who abuse heroin also suffer from co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These disorders can make someone more likely to turn to drugs to self-medicate, leading to psychological dependence on drugs.
- Environmental factors: A person’s environment, including their home life and peer group, can play a role in whether or not they develop an addiction.
Heroin is a highly addictive drug that comes with several risks, including:
One of the most dangerous effects of heroin addiction is that it slows down your breathing and heart rate, causing drowsiness and confusion. It also affects a person’s ability to think. In extreme cases, abusing heroin can also cause mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, paranoia, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
Social and Relationship Issues
Heroin abuse can cause many social and relationship problems. It can make it hard to keep a job or go to school and strain your relationships with family members, partners, and friends.
One of the most tell-tale signs of heroin addiction is that your body is never at rest. You may pace back and forth, fidget, or twitch. This is because heroin causes your body to feel restless and agitated.
Because heroin is often injected, it can lead to the spread of infectious diseases. Sharing needles or other drug paraphernalia among heroin users increases the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and other blood-borne illnesses.
Coma or Death
Heroin abuse can also lead to coma or death. A heroin overdose can slow down your breathing and heart rate to the point where you may stop breathing altogether. This can cause your brain to be deprived of oxygen, leading to permanent brain damage, heart failure, or death.
Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Abuse
Heroin signs depend on the individual’s genetic makeup, substance abuse method, drug use duration, amount of heroin taken, and more.
Most symptoms, signs, and side effects of heroin abuse are evident when the person is under the influence of the drug or going through overdose withdrawal. However, some long-term effects of heroin abuse may not be immediately apparent.
Here are common symptoms to look out for:
Heroin addiction affects the body in many ways. Most physical effects can be mistaken for other health conditions. That’s why it’s important to be vigilant for any changes in health. Common physical symptoms of heroin abuse include:
- Dry mouth
- Extreme weight loss
- Dilated and bloodshot eyes
- Constipation and abdominal pain
- Itchy skin and skin sores
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Sweating or chills
- Bluish discoloration of nails and lips
- Slowed breathing and heart rate
Psychological and Behavioral Symptoms
Heroin abuse can also lead to changes in a person’s mental capacity, behavior, and mood. These changes can be hard to notice, especially if someone tries to hide their drug use. But there are some common psychological and behavioral signs of heroin addiction, including:
- Poor decision-making and poor concentration
- Risky behaviors
- Neglect of responsibilities
- Mood swings
- Irritability and angry outbursts
- Anxiety and depression
Heroin addiction can also impact a person’s social life and relationships. The most common psychosocial symptom of heroin abuse is isolation from family and friends. Other symptoms include:
- Apathy and loss of interest
- Sudden personality changes
- Detachment from reality
- Unexplained secretive behavior
- Fearfulness and paranoia
- Financial and legal problems
Treating Substance Abuse
Heroin addiction is a difficult battle, but it’s one that can be won with the right support. If you or someone you love is struggling with heroin abuse, several treatment options are available.
One of the most effective treatment options for heroin dependence is medication-initiated treatment. This type of treatment uses medications, such as buprenorphine, methadone, and other drugs, to help reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
This treatment aims to help the person wean off heroin and live a life without substance abuse. It seeks to help individuals stabilize their lives, improve their health, and repair relationships that may have been damaged by addiction. Reintegrating into society and leading a productive life is possible with medication-assisted treatment.
This treatment may last for an extended period of time, usually several months to a year. It’s important to continue treatment even after abstinence is achieved to help prevent relapse. It is often combined with counseling and behavioral therapy to help the person recover from drug addiction.
Behavioral Therapy Treatment
Behavioral therapies are another treatment option that can be effective for heroin addiction. This type of therapy helps people identify the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to their drug abuse. It also teaches them how to change these thoughts and behaviors so they can abstain from drug use.
With the focus on changing negative thoughts and behaviors learned from our environment, behavioral therapy can help people recovering from heroin addiction unlearn the bad behaviors that led to drug use and live drug-free lives. It can also be done in individual or group settings.
There are many different behavioral therapies, but some of the most common include cognitive-behavioral, dialectical, and rational emotive behavior therapy. These therapies can also help with other mental illnesses and co-occurring disorders that may be present alongside addiction.
Protecting Your Loved Ones
Knowing the signs of heroin abuse is the first step in protecting your loved ones from addiction. If you suspect that someone you care about is abusing heroin or other substances, the best thing you can do is talk to them about it. The most important thing is to be supportive and understanding.
If they’re not ready to seek help, there are still things you can do to support them and encourage them to get the help they need. If you’re unsure how to approach the situation, it may be helpful to talk to a professional. Our Admissions team at Icarus is ready and waiting to help advise you on the next best steps to take.
When they’re open to getting help, several treatment options are available. The best way to find the right treatment is to work with a professional specializing in addiction. Icarus Behavioral Health can help you assess the situation and come up with a plan to get your loved ones the help they need.
With the right support and proper treatment, it is possible to overcome addiction and lead a healthy, happy life. Reach out to Icarus now and start on new path to a sober life, today!