Addiction Recovery: Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Use and Withdrawal

Understanding the specific signs and effects of heroin use and abuse is key to appreciating why an addicted individual should receive qualified help with addiction recovery. The sooner the user gets proper help, the easier his or her addiction recovery process will be personally, as well as for the people in their lives who are adversely affected by this destructive dependence.

Signs of Heroin Use

heroin useRemember that heroin users, particularly those with a drug abuse history, may initially be able to conceal signs and symptoms of their habit. Loved ones, friends and colleagues may notice a number of indications of heroin use, visible both during and following the drug’s consumption:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Small pupils
  • Sudden changes in behavior and/or disorientation
  • Periods of hyper alertness followed by sudden sleepiness
  • Droopy appearance, as if extremities are heavy

The above signs are not exclusive to the abuse of heroin, however. Here are some of the more definitive warning signs of heroin use, which pertain to the paraphernalia used to prepare, inject or consume the drug:

  • Needles or syringes (not needed other conditions, such as diabetes)
  • Burned silver spoons or aluminum foil or straws with burn marks
  • Missing shoelaces (used as a tie-off for injection sites)
  • Small plastic bags with powdery white residue
  • Water pipes or other kinds of pipes

Behavioral signs of heroin abuse and addiction include lying or other deceptive behavior, avoiding eye contact, increases in time spent sleeping, slurred, garbled or incoherent speech. This may be coupled with worsening performance in school or at work and a general loss of motivation, as well as general apathy and poor hygiene and physical appearance.

A particular sign you may notice is an unexplained need for money or the disappearance of valuables. The individual may also let go of old friends who are not involved in substance use.  Other behavioral clues involve a change in entertainment venues or hobbies, suspicious and secretive dealings, and getting into trouble often. Additionally, keep an eye out for irritability, mood swings, heightened aggression, hyperactivity and anxiety.

As a user’s tolerance to heroin increases, so will the frequency and quantity of heroin consumption. This is when more definitive physical symptoms of heroin abuse and addiction can be identified, such as:

  • Unhealthy loss of weight
  • Runny nose (unexplained by other illness or condition)
  • Visible needle track marks on arms
  • Infections or abscesses at injection site
  • For women, amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle)
  • Bruises, cuts  or scabs as a result of skin picking
  • Wearing of long pants, even in warm weather, to hide needle marks

Symptoms of Withdrawal from Heroin Use

Those addicted to heroin can feel compelled to continue using it for several reasons, including the fear of the potential withdrawal symptoms they may experience. These symptoms can begin anywhere from a few hours to one day after chronic use of the drug ends and often include:

  • Intense cravings for heroin
  • Pronounced sweating (not explained by any other factor or activity, such as exertion)
  • Severe muscle aching and feeling of heaviness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Intense cramping in limbs
  • Weeping
  • Insomnia
  • Cold sweats and chills
  • Runny nose, diarrhea and fever

Heroin Addiction Recovery

heroin useA person using heroin is almost inevitably going to suffer from any number of complications, the severity of which depends on the level of usage and individual traits. The person will generally become less productive professionally or in school. He or she may also end up severing relationships with close friends and relatives. It is equally important to point out that an individual that does not get addiction recovery help in a timely way may experience myriad health problems, including those that affect vital organs, including the brain, kidneys and liver.

With the above in mind, you should move quickly to seek help if you have been using heroin or suspect that someone close to you is using this dangerous substance. Addiction to heroin has no positive side and professional treatment is vital. Fortunately, there are a number of excellent heroin rehab programs that an individual can be enrolled in for a successful outcome, either on an outpatient or inpatient basis. Don’t give up hope when recovery is entirely possible.


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