By: Paige Hohmann

Unfortunately, the reality of the disease of addiction results in a number of negative consequences. Most recently, the opioid epidemic, especially the rates of death from overdose, has been on a steady incline.

One particularly dangerous opioid, heroin, has become increasingly treacherous due to the number of potent cutting agents arising in products available for consumption. Addiction to heroin and other opioids poses serious effects psychologically and physically. Characteristics of heroin addiction are quite obvious. However, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you might not notice the drastic changes.

Heroin causes individuals to deteriorate physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. As much as the drug produces euphoria, it produces a number of relentless side effects that can seem impossible to overcome. It is seemingly easy to distinguish the signs of addiction if you have been exposed to it, recovering from heroin addiction, or in active addiction. However, there are many individuals, family members or close friends, who do not notice the effects of heroin addiction on their loved ones.

In order to effectively communicate and help whoever is addicted to heroin or other substances, you must recognize the characteristics of heroin addiction and be aware of the sudden and gradual changes in those affected.

1. Displaying the Signs of Heroin Addiction

First and foremost, it is imperative to know what you are looking for when determining if you or someone you know is struggling with heroin addiction. Heroin use escalates quickly, so the side effects and symptoms will appear almost immediately. It is also extremely fast-acting, highly addictive, and those who use it develop a tolerance and dependence to the drug within a matter of months of continuous use.

The characteristics of heroin addiction are noticeable especially if you are aware of what heroin does to the physical and psychological states.

Some signs of heroin use can differ from individuals who inject, smoke, or snort the drugs. However, all of the symptoms will generally pinpoint to heroin abuse no matter the route of administration.

Physical signs in individuals who abuse heroin may consist of:

  • Nodding out (stages of wakefulness and sleepiness or drowsiness)
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Track marks
  • Constant sniffling
  • A runny nose
  • Pale skin
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Burn marks on the mouth or fingers
  • Puffiness or sunken in eyes
  • Nosebleeds
  • Overdose

2. Showing Withdrawal Symptoms

With any addiction, especially to heroin, comes withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can be highly unpleasant and vile. Since the effects of heroin occur almost immediately, withdrawal symptoms will come quickly when the substance is absent from the body.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms to pay attention to are:

  • Fever
  • Cold sweats
  • Dilated pupils
  • Excessive yawning
  • Teary eyes
  • Feeling emotionally unstable
  • Pain or discomfort throughout the body
  • Inability to get out of bed
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Mood swings
  • Excessive sweating
  • Inability to concentrate or focus

It is important to stay observant of these symptoms as they are a clear indicator of heroin abuse. The characteristics of heroin addiction are the same when it comes to withdrawal. They cause an uproar of emotions and physical unwellness, which can be a resolvable issue if you or the individual is willing to get help.

However, most people who struggle with addiction fear withdrawal due to the almost paralyzing effects it can have. Fear of withdrawal will lead an individual to continue using despite knowing the consequences.

3. Marked Behaviorial Changes

If you live with the individual, changes in behavior will be easily recognizable. However, the progression of heroin abuse happens quickly, so even if you aren’t always around the individual, you will be able to tell if the symptoms have worsened based on how they act.

If you know the individual well, you will notice immediately that they aren’t acting how they normally would. This can raise many red flags, depending on how severe the changes are.

Some individuals are capable of turning into monsters – doing anything and everything to get the next one, despite the consequence.

Behaviors that indicate heroin abuse consists of:

  • Poor performance in work or school
  • Disorientation
  • Lying
  • Sleeping too much
  • Isolation
  • Finding no pleasure in things they used to enjoy
  • Jitteriness or nodding out
  • Hostility
  • Mood swings
  • Acting manipulative or deceptive
  • Avoiding eye contact or any physical contact
  • Slurred or incoherent speech
  • Apathy or indifference

Also, changes in the living quarters or surroundings in active addiction can be an indicator of heroin use. As the person’s inhibitors and moral compass lower, they will become careless in hiding their use when around people that do not suspect they are abusing heroin.

You might notice a few things going missing such as:

  • Spoons
  • Shoelaces
  • Money
  • Valuable possessions
  • Prescriptions

You might also find things such as paraphernalia or other items you might not think are related to heroin abuse such as:

  • Little baggies or wax paper
  • Cotton balls, q-tips, or missing cigarette filters
  • Syringes
  • Rubber bands
  • Bottle caps
  • Half-empty water bottles
  • Rolled up dollar bills or pieces of paper
  • Razor blades or credit cards
  • Orange caps from syringes
  • Aluminum foil
  • Straws
  • Black marks on objects around the house
  • White or tan powder on flat surfaces

4. Changes in Appearance

The most obvious characteristics of those struggling with a heroin addiction are their sudden changes in appearance. Heroin has this effect where it completely strips an individual of everything they are—looks being one of them. Heroin has the ability to entirely alter your perception of yourself as well as others’ perception of you.

As the body and mind begin to deteriorate, you might find the individual struggling with performing simple daily tasks such as brushing teeth, showering, or wearing clean clothes. Also, an individual’s skin changes color and their eyes and face begin to sink in. Excessive and prolonged heroin use can also cause changes in hair, nails, skin, and weight.

If you suspect someone is using heroin, based on their appearance you might notice:

  • Wearing long sleeves, even in hot weather
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Wearing sunglasses or eyewear
  • Disregard for physical appearance
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Skin appearing almost greyish
  • Sunken in eyes
  • Raspy voice

5. Being Financially Unstable

Lastly, heroin abuse is expensive, despite the myths that it is cheaper than prescription painkillers. After extensive use, your tolerance drastically heightens—meaning you will need more heroin to fulfill your needs and to become “well”. Unfortunately, there comes a time when the money runs out, causing a number of other characteristics of heroin addiction to arise.

Financial instability is one of the main reasons why people struggling with addiction turn to crime or violence to support their habit. It is more common for an individual to steal than to commit a crime, but the end results vary from each individual.

If you notice someone in active addiction struggling with money or constantly asking to borrow money, there’s a great chance they are using their income to support their habit. Also, you will come across missing items of value and notice things that maybe they once owned are gone.

Unfortunately, the disease of addiction causes us to do things we wouldn’t normally do, which is why the signs of heroin addiction are quite obvious. It is important to educate yourself on all aspects of addiction—the dangers, how to reverse an overdose, and where to find help.

There are also many support programs that can help you determine the next steps to take. They are designed to help you effectively communicate with someone abusing heroin and learn how to interact with them without enabling or supporting their addiction.

Begin Your Recovery Journey Today

Recognizing the signs of heroin addiction can be life or death for loved ones and even yourself. A number of people struggle throughout their whole lives with the disease of addiction, often having nowhere to turn. If you or someone you know is displaying the characteristics of heroin addiction or any other addiction do not wait to ask for help. Delphi is here to help you regain control of your life. Call us today at (844) 899-5777 or contact us online to speak with one of our trained professional staff members so we can help you find the right program that suits your individual needs. It’s never too late to ask for help when your life’s on the line, so why wait?

1