Heroin is an addictive drug that can have a wide range of side effects when taken once, or repeatedly over time.
According to annual survey data, over 900,000 people in the United States used heroin in 2020, and nearly 700,000 people had a heroin use disorder, also known as addiction.
Learning the signs of heroin addiction can help people seek viable care and identify treatment options for an addicted loved one.
Physical Signs And Symptoms Of Heroin Addiction
Heroin is an opiate depressant derived from the opium poppy plant that comes in a white powder or as a black tar substance.
It slows brain activity and attaches to opioid receptors in the brain that release dopamine – a “feel good” brain chemical.
When taken, heroin can have a number of side effects. If you’re looking for signs of a heroin addiction in someone, it can be helpful to know the effects they may be experiencing.
Short-term side effects of heroin include:
- dry mouth
- warm flushing
- severe itching
- slow or shallow breathing
- decreased heart rate and blood pressure
Heroin can also have many chronic, or long-term effects — including drug addiction.
Common signs of chronic heroin abuse and addiction include:
Most people who become addicted to heroin turn to injection for faster effects. Unfortunately, this can have a number of serious consequences over time.
Common signs of heroin injection include:
- collapsed veins
- bloodborne disease (e.g. HIV, hepatitis)
Visible effects on areas of the body, such as abscesses and scabs, are some of the easiest signs that a person may be able to recognize in order to identify heroin use.
Learn more about heroin abscesses from injection drug use.
Heroin Track Marks
Track marks are visible marks on a person’s skin that can develop as a result of injecting heroin or another common drug of abuse.
Track marks can appear in the form of a puncture wound, bruising, or scabbing at the injection site. Commonly, this appears on the hands, feet, forearms, or legs.
Learn more about how to identify heroin track marks.
People who use heroin may develop what are referred to as “heroin eyes,” or pinpoint pupils. This is because heroin drug use can cause your pupils to become very small.
Learn more about heroin eyes and how to identify them.
People who use heroin may “nod out,” or develop what’s known as the “heroin nod.”
Signs of nodding off on heroin include:
- head slumping forward
- falling in and out of consciousness
- difficult to rouse
- lack of attentiveness
- head jerking up
Heroin nod is not an official medical term. This side effect can occur from taking a high dose of heroin. It can also be a sign of a heroin overdose.
Learn more about the heroin nod and nodding out on heroin.
Heroin Dependence And Withdrawal
Using heroin repeatedly over time can cause an increased tolerance for heroin (requiring higher doses to feel the same effects) and physical dependence.
The primary sign of dependence is experiencing symptoms of heroin withdrawal within as little as six to 12 hours after last using heroin.
Early effects of withdrawal include:
- cold flashes
- muscle and bone pain
- nausea and vomiting
- strong drug cravings
Mental And Emotional Signs Of A Heroin Addiction
Addiction isn’t just physical in nature. It can also affect you mentally, emotionally, and psychologically. Over time, this can become worse, and grow more difficult to bear.
Common mental and emotional signs of heroin addiction include:
- cloudy thinking
- constantly thinking about heroin use
- new or worsening depression
- lack of empathy
Heroin can affect people in different ways. This may impact your ability to work, and disrupt your relationships with friends, family members, and other loved ones.
Other Signs Of A Heroin Addiction
Not all signs of heroin addiction are directly related to its effects on physical or mental health. Drug addiction can also be identified by changes in behavior or other environmental cues.
Other signs of a heroin addiction might include:
- withdrawing from friends or family
- financial troubles
- unusual changes in physical appearance (e.g dramatic weight loss)
- showing less interest in activities previously enjoyed
- possession of heroin paraphernalia (e.g. plastic baggies, syringes)
The effects of heroin on the brain can alter how a person behaves over time. In some cases, this can make a person appear unrecognizable from who they were before.
Heroin Addiction Treatment Options
Heroin addiction can occur in anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, or occupation. With professional treatment, achieving recovery is possible.
At Bedrock Recovery Center, we offer access to a full continuum of care for heroin addiction through our treatment center and nearby treatment centers in Massachusetts.
What we offer:
Get Help For A Heroin Addiction Today
Our top-rated heroin addiction treatment programs offer a personalized, compassionate approach to heroin addiction and the journey towards addiction recovery.
Call our helpline today to learn more about our addiction recovery treatment programs at Bedrock Recovery Center.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — Heroin https://www.cdc.gov/opioids/basics/heroin.html
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — 2020 NSDUH Results https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt35325/NSDUHFFRPDFWHTMLFiles2020/2020NSDUHFFR1PDFW102121.pdf
- U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Heroin DrugFacts https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin