Heroin addict sitting in a chair with a belt around her arm

The Signs of Heroin Abuse. Physical symptoms of heroin abuse. Sharing contaminated needles and what it can lead to. Behavioral signs of heroin abuse and addiction. Warning signs of heroin abuse. Issues associated with intravenous heroin use.

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The Signs of Heroin Abuse

Abusing heroin is risky to human health. The drug is a highly addictive substance that can lead to serious health problems and death in some situations. Recognizing the signs of abuse is the first step in healing with the help of a professional.

Physical Signs of Abuse

The physical symptoms that come with drug abuse are usually the first signs of a problem. Although it is possible to overlook some of the symptoms as illness, other signs will show that heroin abuse is the cause of the physical changes.

Signs of include:

  • Skin that looks sickly, flushed or pale
  • Signs of dry mouth, such as drinking more water or bad breath
  • Heavy breathing to gain oxygen
  • Oddities in pupil constriction in the eyes
  • Appearance of suffering from a cold or flu
  • Odd lines on the arms
  • Needle injection sights that are infected
  • Veins in the arms or legs that collapse
  • Sudden and unexplained drops in weight
  • Inability to perform sexually in men

Although the physical signs of abuse are the most obvious, other changes will occur. Heroin is known to cause alterations in emotional, psychological and mental health.

Physical Signs of Abuse

Changes to mental health are common after abusing heroin for an extended period of time. Loved ones will notice other signs that suggest substance abuse.

Signs include:

  • Sudden and odd behavior changes that are not normal for the individual
  • Changes to sleeping patterns that are not related to a job
  • Hyperactivity followed by sudden drops in energy

The psychological signs of abuse are related to changes in the brain. The drug alters brain chemistry, so actions and behaviors will often alter as a result.

Risks of Sharing Needles

Heroin is often injected through a needle and some individuals will share needles. Unfortunately, sharing needles can cause serious health risks.

Risks related to contamination and blood-borne diseases are a common problem. The most common diseases that are injected with the drug are AIDS and any form of hepatitis. Although blood-borne diseases are a high risk, impurities in the drug can also cause high levels of toxicity that lead to hospitalization.

Common Changes in Behavior

Behavioral changes are usually the first sign a loved one will notice after drug abuse begins. Recognizing the common changes to actions and behaviors will make it easier to recognize a growing addiction. Changes to actions often include:

  • Inability or unwillingness to look friends, family or other loved ones in the eye
  • Changes to sleeping habits, particularly sleeping more than usual
  • Wearing loose and long-sleeved clothing
  • Sudden drops in grades or performance at work

When actions suddenly change, it is a warning sign of a growing problem. Unless the change is related to diagnosed and obvious health problems, like cancer, it is a sign of drug abuse.

Items Used to Take the Drug

A clear sign of the problem is drug paraphernalia or finding items that are related to the drug. Common items that are used to take heroin include lighters, needles that are not needed for a medical purpose, spoons, foil or straws with burn marks, and containers that have white powder residue. In some cases, pipes and missing shoe laces are also a potential sign of the problem.

Health Risks of the Drug

Using heroin regularly is dangerous to human health. It comes with serious risks that are not related to sharing diseases with other drug users. In some cases, the drug can lead to problems with breathing. Inflammation throughout the body is a serious problem. It is particularly deadly when inflammation develops in the heart or when a weak immune system leads to pneumonia.

If the addiction is left untreated, then the drug use can lead to physical disabilities and death. An overdose from the drug or complications related to poor health can kill.

When heroin addiction develops, it is important to seek professional attention. Recognizing the symptoms of a growing addiction is the first step of seeking help. After getting help, it is possible to overcome the addiction and live a drug-free lifestyle.