Signs of Heroin Use and Abuse
329,000 individuals in the United States have admitted to heroin abuse or use in the past month alone.
According to yearly data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), heroin is currently the 16th most misused drug in the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that deaths from heroin overdoses surpassed gun homicides for the first time in 2015. Though the margin was slim, gun homicides resulted in 12,979 deaths and heroin overdoses resulted in 12,989 deaths. Deaths due to heroin have spiked sharply over the past 5 years and officially rose above deaths due to prescription opioids in 2015 as well.
With such drastic rises in the amount of heroin overdoses over the past few years, clearly there is a problem with heroin abuse in the United States.
People need to be on the lookout for signs of heroin use in their loved ones. Since the regulations surrounding prescription opioids have tightened, many have turned to heroin as a cheaper, more potent, and readily available alternative.
However, heroin tends to be much more dangerous than prescription opioids. Though both can have a massive impact on your life, health, and wellbeing, there is at least consistency in prescription opioids. There are no regulations or quality control measures for heroin production so there is often differences in potency between batches.
A shot that could get someone comfortably high one day could easily kill them the next if the new product is more potent. There is no real way to detect the potency of a batch. Every time someone does heroin it's similar to playing a game of Russian Roulette. However, if you are living with a heroin addiction, nothing will come between you and your next fix. Nothing will stop you, not even the chance of death.
What is heroin and what does it do?
Heroin is an opiate extracted from the pods of a poppy plant. It comes in various forms but is most commonly seen as a white or brown powder, or a black, sticky, tar-like substance. Oftentimes heroin is "cut" with caffeine, sugar, or other substances. It can be smoked, snorted, or injected intravenously. Heroin attaches to the opioid receptors in the brain. It is fast-acting and highly addictive; many become hooked the first time they use it.
But what causes heroin to be addictive? When it is ingested, heroin causes an intensely relaxed and pleasurable feeling due to the release of dopamine. If it is used repeatedly, the neural pathways in the brain are rewired. Once an individual has experienced the sense of ease and comfort provided by heroin, things that were once pleasurable are no longer as enjoyable. The sudden release of dopamine creates inexplicable feelings of calmness and carefreeness.
When used frequently or in high doses, the brain quickly associates being high with contentment. Individuals find themselves caught in the claws of an opiate haze in a short amount of time.
What are some of the ways of how to tell if someone is on drugs or heroin addiction signs that loved ones can look for?
Ingesting heroin produces a sense of ease and calmness. It also makes the world seem as if it's moving slower. It is usually quite easy to determine when someone is high on heroin because they show obvious signs.
Some of the signs of heroin drug abuse or use include:
- Speaking or moving slowly
- "Nodding out" (falling asleep/passing out while sitting up)
- Constricted pupils (pinpoint pupils)
- "Track marks" on arms, hands, feet, or legs (marks from where the needle entered if used intravenously)
Nodding out is one of the easiest ways of how to tell if someone is on drugs. Those who have a heroin addiction often fall asleep sitting up or "nod off", causing their head to droop down. This is one of the easiest ways of how to tell someone is on heroin.
People showing signs of drug abuse, specifically heroin use, can nod off anywhere: in bed, on the couch, while out with friends (though heroin isn't commonly used as a social drug), or even at dinner with the family.
Constricted pupils are another tell-tale heroin addiction sign. People's pupils are all generally the same size and adjust based on the amount of light in the room. When someone is showing symptoms of heroin use, their pupils will remain small as pinpricks no matter the amount of light in the room. In the dark their pupils will still be tiny.
Keep an eye out for some of these signs of heroin drug abuse if you are concerned your loved one may have a heroin addiction. Though some people may be able to use heroin once or twice and never return to it again, heroin is an extremely addictive drug.
Look for heroin addiction signs in your loved one by knowing how to tell if someone is on drugs, searching for things such as:
- Drastic changes in behavior
- Suddenly changing friend groups
- Skipping plans or social engagements
- Absences from school or work
- Missing money, jewelry, or other valuables from your house
- Excessive spending habits with no explanation
These are some of the signs of heroin addiction, common in many people who are addicted to all types of drugs. As the heroin addiction takes over, addicts often lose interest in things that were once pleasurable to them. They may switch groups of friends in rapid succession as they find the people who can get what they want. Drugs become the most important thing, more important than school, work, or even family.
Heroin addiction is incredibly powerful so it is important to stay aware of heroin addiction signs. You have the ability to help keep someone from destroying their life if you know how to tell someone is on drugs. It can be difficult to approach someone showing signs of drug abuse, but it may be the most important thing you ever do. Although the decision is ultimately up to them, you can be the first step in introducing them to a solution.
How do those with a prescription opioid addiction develop a heroin addiction?
Prescription painkillers are the fifth most misused drug in America, considering use in the past month alone. Despite the increasing restrictions on access to prescription painkillers such as Norco and Oxycodone, doctors still prescribe these dangerous medications with a heavy hand.
After someone is displaying signs of drug abuse with their prescription painkiller use, they may have a more difficult time acquiring their pills. Additionally, maintaining a prescription painkiller addiction is expensive. Addicts have to go to different doctors to receive enough prescriptions, making doctor bills pile up, and then have to fill those prescriptions.
When prescription painkiller addiction becomes too costly to keep up, these addicts will instead turn to heroin. Heroin is a more affordable alternative to prescription painkillers and provides a much stronger high. It quickly becomes favorable to the painkillers once a heroin addict realizes the power of the drug.
Heroin use has risen sharply over the last decade according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heroin addiction is also killing in much higher numbers than 10 years ago. 8,200 people died of a heroin overdose in 2013, almost four times the amount of deaths attributed to the drug in 2002.
What are some of the symptoms of heroin use experienced by those with a heroin addiction when trying to get sober?
Heroin is similar to morphine and both provide pain relieving side effects. When someone is trying to quit using heroin it is often referred to as "kicking heroin." This description is more literal than you may think; when someone with a heroin addiction is detoxing, their legs will literally kick involuntarily, thus it is called kicking heroin.
Quitting a heroin addiction is one of the most difficult things to do and it's easily one of the hardest drugs to stop using. There are a multitude of other symptoms of heroin use that one will experience when trying to get sober. The symptoms and signs experienced by those during detox from heroin are referred to as withdrawals.
Symptoms of heroin use and withdrawal include:
- Muscle, joint, and bone pain
- Body aches and chills
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sleeplessness or insomnia
- Involuntary kicking motions in the legs
- Anxiety, irritation, or anger
- Strong cravings for the drug
Heroin withdrawals begin anywhere from 6 to 12 hours after the last dose. They peak between 1 to 3 days post-use and the physical symptoms generally subside after a week. The mental withdrawal from heroin, though, including the anxiety, depression, and cravings may persist for longer, from weeks to years.
There is no guarantee on a definite end to heroin withdrawal as, for some, the cravings never subside. They become more manageable but time spent using heroin is always remembered with rose-colored glasses. It is difficult for addicts to recall the damage that heroin did to their lives but all too easy to recall the good times had while high.
What causes such a high death rate for those with heroin addiction or show signs of heroin drug abuse?
As mentioned before, heroin is an unregulated drug; there are no labs or FDA testing each batch of heroin. There is no real way to know what each batch has been cut with or how potent it is. As people develop tolerances to heroin they are able to take larger and larger shots.
However, when people are taking these large shots they are assuming they know the dosage. When they receive a stronger batch of heroin than they are used to and take the same large shot, overdose and death is incredibly common. Many with a heroin addiction overestimate the amount they are able to take resulting in thousands of unnecessary deaths.
How can someone help their loved one find a heroin addiction treatment center?
Heroin addiction and signs of heroin drug abuse are something to be taken seriously. Heroin is killing by the thousands today and, if action is not taken, the number will continue to rise. Heroin addiction treatment is one way to combat this alarming epidemic. When you know how to tell someone is on drugs, you can intervene before anything truly bad happens.
What can you do to help a loved one showing signs of drug abuse? Educate yourself on the different types of treatment available for those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. There are various levels of heroin addiction treatment depending on the severity and length of use. Treatment teaches those addicted to heroin how to live life without drugs.
Since drugs often affect a person's ability to function in everyday life, heroin addiction treatment treatment also teaches recovering addicts how to be responsible and productive members of society.
The goal of treatment is to get addicts to the point of sober self-sufficiency. For those who are ready to get sober and want to be in recovery from their heroin addiction, treatment can be a beneficial first step.
But how do you find treatment? There are a variety of things to consider when selecting a heroin addiction treatment center for your loved one who is showing signs of drug abuse.
- Do they want to attend heroin addiction treatment near where they live or in a distant location?
- How severe are the signs of their heroin drug abuse?
- Will they need to stay in drug detox in order to withdraw safely?
- Do they need to stay overnight in a facility or can they manage their day-to-day life while attending something like an intensive outpatient program?
These are only a few of the questions to consider when deciding where to send your loved one for heroin addiction treatment. You can show your support for your loved one showing signs of heroin drug abuse by finding out whether or not they are ready for treatment. If they are, you can help them find the assistance they need.
Continue to learn how to tell if someone is on drugs and keep an eye on your loved ones. Do not let them become another statistic; instead, help them find sobriety through heroin addiction treatment. Though they may be upset at first, once they have a clear head they will thank you.