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Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Abuse

If you’re concerned that a loved one is engaging in heroin use, there are many signs and symptoms to look for. Heroin is an extremely addictive and dangerous street drug. If you believe that someone close to you is using heroin, it may be frightening to discover their drug habit. Your loved one may not even realize how severe their addiction has become, as an addict’s mindset is one of denial and unwillingness to confront issues. However, addicts who receive support and encouragement from friends and family when seeking treatment often enjoy higher rates of successful recovery.

Quick Facts About the Dangers of Heroin Use

Heroin is a highly addictive opioid drug. The use of heroin is rising quickly in the US population, with 2 percent of all adults aged 26 years or older having used heroin at some point in their lives. The average heroin user spends between $150-$200 per day to sustain their drug habit. Users often resort to crime in order to generate such large volumes of cash on a daily basis. This drug is so addictive that it accounts for just under a fifth of all inpatient drug treatment admissions in the US. The rising use of heroin is so dangerous that a 45 percent increase in deaths from overdoses was recorded in 2010-2011.

Indications of Heroin Use

The statistics concerning the dangers and costs of heroin are disturbing. It’s important to educate yourself about the common indications of abuse if you suspect a loved one may be using. You may notice these changes when your loved one is actually high on heroin:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Small pupils
  • Unpredictable behavior
  • Confusion
  • Nodding off

These symptoms are not necessarily unique to heroin use, but are subtle warning signs for which to be vigilant. Behavioral changes often occur as well:

  • Lying
  • Increased time spent sleeping
  • Slurred or incoherent speech
  • Sudden drop in school or work performance
  • Loss of motivation
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Hostile, blaming behavior toward friends and family
  •  Lack of hygiene
  • Constant wearing of long sleeves or pants, even in hot weather (worn to hide needle marks)

Physical changes are highly notable as heroin use progresses. Users develop a tolerance to heroin with continued use, needing to constantly increase their dosage to achieve a high. The physical toll becomes quite apparent, and you may notice these changes:

  • Weight loss
  • Visible needle marks
  • Infected needle marks
  • Constant, unexplained runny nose
  • Unexplained cuts, bruises and scrapes

Proof of Heroin Use

These symptoms, when taken all together, provide very compelling evidence to support suspicion of heroin use. When you notice these changes, oftentimes you won’t have to look very hard to find definitive proof in the way of drug paraphernalia:

  • Syringes not used for the treatment of a medical condition
  • Burnt and/or bent spoons
  • Scorched pieces of aluminum foil
  • Scorched straws
  • Missing shoelaces (used as a tourniquet)
  • Glass pipes
  • Empty bags containing white, powdery residue

These items used for heroin consumption, coupled with observed behavioral and physical changes, provide solid proof of substance abuse. If you have discovered the terrible truth that a loved one is using heroin, how can you help them recover?

How to Help a Loved One Recover from Heroin Abuse

Taking the proper steps to identify drug abuse is a very important initial step in helping someone recover from addiction. After all, you can’t help if you don’t know what’s going on! Next, it’s of the utmost importance to help your loved one enter an inpatient treatment facility as soon as possible. Heroin varies greatly in concentration, making it impossible for an addict to gauge the dosage of a hit. Their next high could end in death from an accidental overdose, so swift action on your part is necessary to keep them safe.

If talking to them doesn’t work, you may need to organize an intervention. Inpatient treatment will help your loved one to recover by isolating them from the drug, helping them safely detox and allowing them access to important therapies. Successful completion rates for inpatient versus outpatient treatment are much higher, with a success rate of 65 percent versus 30 percent. By helping your loved one to receive proper treatment, you may very well be saving their life.

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