People find it hard to talk about their heroin addiction. However, there are obvious signs of heroin addiction that can tell you someone is battling with drug use. Most times, these people may not be sincere about their heroin use. They tend to believe they are not addicted to the drug.
The more they believe they are not addicted, the more they get stuck to heroin. Most times, this leads to worsening symptoms and potentially deadly outcomes. Hence, it is very important to take note of heroin addiction symptoms. Early detection of these symptoms can save your life or that of a loved one.
In this article, you will learn about how to recognize heroin addiction in yourself or another person. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms, you will find out how to get effective treatment. There is so much to learn here. Let’s get going!
What is Heroin?
Heroin is an opioid drug. It is made from morphine, a natural substance found in the seed pods of opium poppy plants. You can find these plants in the southeastern and southwestern parts of Asia, Colombia, and Mexico. Heroin is usually found as a white or brown powder. It can also be in the form of a black sticky substance called black tar heroin.
On the streets of Canada, heroin is also called H, smack, hell dust, horse, junk, black tar, dope, or snow. Heroin addicts usually take the drug by injecting it into their bloodstream. They also sniff, snort, or smoke it. Some people mix heroin with cocaine. This mixture is also known as speedballs.
What is Heroin Addiction?
Before going into the signs of heroin addiction, it is important to understand what it is. Heroin is a very addictive drug. When you take it, it binds to opioid receptors on your cells, especially those controlling feelings of pain, pleasure, heart rate, sleeping, and breathing.
Besides relieving pain, heroin causes your brain to release endorphins. This will cause you to experience happiness, euphoria, and highness. Addicts find it hard to let go of these feelings and keep going back to the drug to experience it.
When you use heroin often, your body’s tolerance for the drug increases. This increased tolerance level means you usually have to take heroin frequently or take higher doses to feel the desired effects.
With continued heroin use, you will develop a substance use disorder. You will find it difficult to do without the drug and believe you are incomplete without it. Typically, you will begin to experience health and societal problems. Most of the time, most heroin addicts find it hard to meet their obligations and responsibilities. In fact, this is one of the signs of heroin addiction.
The problem with heroin addiction is that you may not even know you are addicted. However, if you notice changes in your lifestyle habits or physical characteristics, it may be a sign you are hooked on the drug. In the next section, we will highlight the signs to look out for.
Related article: The Long Term Effects of Heroin Abuse
How to Recognize Heroin Addiction
It is easy to sense signs of heroin addiction in another person. Some of the early symptoms of heroin addiction come with behavioural changes. They may have mood swings, lose interest in things, or withdraw themselves from others.
Being able to recognize these behavioural signs of heroin abuse early is important in dealing with it. Generally, the symptoms of heroin abuse can be behavioural or physical.
Behavioural Symptoms of Heroin Addiction
You are prone to experience changes in your behaviour once you become addicted to heroin. This is because the drug will alter your normal lifestyle.
Therefore, if you notice these lifestyle changes in yourself or a loved one, it is a sign of heroin addiction. Some of the behavioural changes you may experience due to heroin use include:
Inability to Meet Your Obligations
Heroin addicts find themselves so hooked on the drug that they forget about their obligations. All they worry about is how to satisfy their cravings. Most times, addicts spend their time using the drug and getting over withdrawal symptoms. Hence, there is no time for anything else.
Loss of Interest
One of the signs of heroin addiction is a sense of apathy and disinterest in activities. You become uninterested or motivated to do things that used to make you come alive. You also struggle to make decisions or remember things you set out to do.
A Drop in Performance
Heroin addicts, like most drug users, struggle to keep up with their academic or job performance levels. You may find yourself sleeping in class or at work and unable to carry out assignments. This usually leads to low grades or unemployment.
Relationship or Marital Problems
One of the signs of heroin addiction is the development of relationship issues between the addict and their partner. Different levels of conflict will arise in the relationship, causing fights, separation, or divorce. Addicts also struggle to relate well with their friends at work or school.
Heroin addicts spend all their money on buying the drug. They continue to buy more quantities to satisfy their cravings. Some addicts will end up borrowing money to acquire the drug and run into debt.
Withdrawal from Society
A heroin addict enjoys spending time alone and away from society. Sometimes, they prefer to be alone to hide away their addiction.
Heroin may cause you to have unusual mood swings. One moment you are happy. The very next moment, you are sad and depressed. These mood changes likely occur when you are battling with withdrawal symptoms of the drug.
Engaging in Risky Acts or Behaviours
One of the signs you’re using heroin comes with the feeling of euphoria and invincibility you get. These feelings can sometimes drive addicts to engage in risky behaviours they would typically avoid. Some of these behaviours include DUI, unprotected sex, thuggery, stealing, etc.
Poor Personal Hygiene
Heroin addicts struggle to keep up with their hygiene. They hardly take their bath or brush their teeth. They spend most of their time locked indoors, dealing with withdrawal symptoms and barely able to care about their wellbeing.
If you notice any of the behavioural changes described above, it’s time to get help. Here at Canada MedLaser, we offer professional heroin addiction treatment that will get you clean. More importantly, we will help you develop much-needed tools for long-term sobriety.
Physical Signs of Heroin Addiction
Besides affecting your behaviour, heroin also affects your physical wellbeing. Hence, if you believe you or a loved one is addicted to heroin, you may have to go beyond looking for behavioural changes. For one, the person may find it easy to hide the changes in their behaviour. However, the physical changes will be visible for all to see.
The physical changes you may suffer from heroin use usually occur quickly. After injecting it into your bloodstream, the drug-induced euphoria occurs rapidly. However, if you take the drug through other means, you don’t get that feeling immediately. Instead, it comes with physical symptoms that include:
- Dry mouth
- Small Pupils
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Itching Skin
- Lack of Self-control or coordination
- Memory loss
- Feeling Heavy
- Slurred Speech
- Irregular or slow breathing
If you are observant, you may also find needle marks on the hands of heroin users. However, most people wear long-sleeved dresses to cover them up.
Effects of Heroin Use
When you use heroin, you may experience the following short-term side effects:
- An initial feeling of euphoria
- Vomiting and nausea
- Flushed or itching skin
- Slowed heart rate
- Feeling drowsy for long hours.
- Heavy limbs
- Clouded thinking
You may also experience some atypical symptoms of heroin addiction. These atypical symptoms usually occur when you take adulterated heroin. These symptoms can last for a day and may last even longer. They include:
- Chest pain
What If I Overdose on Heroin?
Sometimes, heroin addicts may take a high dose of the drug. They do this because they wish to enjoy the highest form of euphoria or highness that heroin gives. This behaviour is dangerous and can lead to death. Some of the symptoms associated with heroin overdose include:
- Heightened drug cravings
- Aches in the legs, back, and other parts of the body
- Runny nose
- Nausea and vomiting
- Heart attack
Medical Effects of Heroin Addiction
If you are addicted to heroin or know someone showing signs of heroin addiction, it is important to seek help immediately. For one, you run the risk of contracting infectious and viral diseases like HIV, Hepatitis, etc. This happens when you share needles or use unsterilized needles to inject yourself with the drug.
Persons using heroin over an extended period may harm their organs. You see the ong-term use of heroin can damage the liver, kidney, and heart. It also leads to a depletion of the immune system, making addicts prone to infections.
When you use heroin in conjunction with other drugs or additives, there are medical risks involved. It can cause your blood vessels to coagulate and clog. When this happens, it results in heart attacks, permanent organ damage, and strokes. It can also lead to death.
Pregnant mothers who take heroin can experience miscarriages. Mothers who abuse heroin are likely to give birth to underweight babies. A mother who abuses heroin may give birth to a baby who is physically addicted to the drug. The baby will likely suffer neonatal abstinence syndrome. Hence, the baby will undergo detoxification and withdrawal after delivery.
With all these signs of heroin addiction in mind, it is important to find treatment for your addiction. Before we go into detail with treatment, let’s discuss the withdrawal symptoms of heroin addiction.
What are Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms?
When you become physically dependent on heroin, or after taking a large dose of the drug, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms usually begin 6-12 hours after you use the drug. The symptoms reach their peak after a day or two days. They eventually clear out after about 5-7 days.
There is no given timeline for withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes it can last even longer, especially for long-term addicts. Some of the common withdrawal symptoms related to heroin use include:
- Dysphoria or bad mood
- High sweating
- Blurry vision
- Dilated pupils
- Rapid heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Runny nose
- Body Aches
- Cravings for drugs.
Now, that you are conversant with how to recognize heroin addiction, let us learn how to get treatment. There are several treatment options available in Canada.
How Can I Treat My Heroin Addiction?
The first step towards getting treatment for heroin addiction is realizing you need help. If you don’t accept you need assistance, nothing can change your situation. It begins with you. Once you accept you need help, you can enrol for addiction treatment.
You don’t have to wait until it is too late before getting treatment. Once you notice signs of heroin addiction, seek professional help to deal with it. There are many centers available where you can treat your addiction. The best centers have treatment types tailor-made to satisfy your needs.
There are various types of addiction treatments. Some of them may involve taking medications. These medications will help you deal better with the withdrawal symptoms. Some other treatments involve behavioural therapy. Here, you will learn how to control the negative thoughts or behaviours leading to your heroin addiction.
Other treatments may inculcate wellness and well-being programs. Some others will need you to join support groups to ensure you limit the risks of having a relapse after recovery. Let us take a look at the various types of addiction treatments available.
Some medicines can help you to deal with the withdrawal signs of heroin addiction. The drug lofexidine, which does not contain any opioids, helps to reduce symptoms of withdrawal. There are also drugs like buprenorphine and methadone.
They reduce withdrawal symptoms and your heroin cravings. Naltrexone is a medication that blocks opioid receptors in the brain. This way, it stops opioids like heroin from affecting you.
This type of heroin addiction treatment involves you visiting a treatment facility and going home after treatment. With this heroin recovery program, you can carry out your daily activities while receiving treatment.
The intensity level of outpatient treatments varies depending on the patient. However, they will include the following:
- A period of detoxification, which is the removal of heroin from your body.
- Medication, if necessary and appropriate, to help you deal with withdrawal symptoms.
- Group therapy.
- Individual therapy.
- Relapse prevention therapy and education.
- Continued support after treatment and recovery.
This is also called residential treatment or rehab. In this type of treatment, you will have to live in a residential facility for the duration of treatment. People who tend to struggle with relapse prefer this treatment. It helps them avoid distractions and focus solely on recovery.
During their time in inpatient rehab treatment centers, patients receive close medical supervision from professionals. They also come in contact with other patients passing through similar circumstances. Hence, they always have the support they need from medical staff and patients. Patients get to share their experiences and learn from each other while they recover from their addictions.
Some of the features you will find in inpatient treatment centers include:
- A safe and secure recovery environment.
- Supervised detoxification from symptoms of heroin addiction.
- Support from other patients and medical staff throughout recovery.
- Supervised medical treatment.
- Individual therapy.
- Group therapy.
- Therapeutic activities like meditation, exercise, yoga, dancing, sports, etc.
- Family therapy and outings.
- Family weekends.
These activities vary depending on the rehab facility you register with. Good treatment centers will always provide you with the necessary care you need to get over your addiction and live a normal life.
There are luxury residential treatment centers where patients get extra therapies and activities. These luxury rehabs operate similarly to standard inpatient centers. However, patients also get access to special activities like spa treatments, horse riding, swimming, yoga, art therapy, etc.
Outpatient and inpatient treatment centers inculcate behavioural therapies as part of heroin addiction treatment. These behavioural therapies include contingency management and cognitive behavioural therapy.
With contingency management, you will earn points for testing negative for heroin. Your negative test shows you stayed away from the drug and are staying sober. You can exchange the points you earn for items. These items will encourage you to continue with a healthy lifestyle as you recover from your addiction.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a treatment designed to help modify an addict’s expectations and behaviours in relation to heroin use. The therapy checks to find the root cause of your addiction. It also trains you to cope with things that stress you. Therefore, you manage these stress factors adequately without letting them cause a relapse.
During and after your heroin addiction treatment, it is good to join support groups. These support groups are not substitutes for treatment. Instead, they act as a great source of encouragement and support to addicts during and after treatment. Most members of these groups share similar experiences, channelling them to help one another.
Some examples of support groups include:
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Narcotics Anonymous
- Cocaine Anonymous, etc.
These are the most common support groups. They function based on self-help groups like the 12-step programs. Most treatment centers advise their patients to join these groups. With these groups, you, as a recovery patient, will get the communal support and encouragement you need to remain sober.
Besides these groups, it is also essential to have close friends and family members encouraging you to go on with treatment. It is easier said than done to go through heroin addiction treatment, but you can scale through with the right support system. You also need support to remain sober after your recovery to avoid a relapse.
In the worst-case scenario, remember that a relapse is not the end of the world. You need to get back on your feet, analyze why you relapsed and take measures to avoid a repeat occurrence. If you need to go back to a treatment center, do so. If somethings are causing you to relapse, cut them off.
The journey to sobriety is long and filled with ups and downs. Hence, it’s vital for you to have a clear mindset of what you wish to achieve. That alone should be your focus.
Now That You Know The Signs of Heroin Addiction
Having reached this point, you should be able to tell the signs of heroin addiction. You are now able to recognize addictive behaviours and symptoms better. You also understand the terrible effects heroin has on your body. Hence, you know you need to seek help if you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms.
Finding help with your heroin addiction treatment starts with you. If you accept you need help and are ready to treat your addiction. It is a step in the right direction. The next step to take is finding a treatment service that suits you.
Related article: Cocaine Withdrawal: What To Expect