How to Know If Your Friend is Addicted to Heroin

12/11/2020 Editor's note: Originally posted in 2016, this article has been updated to reflect current overdose data courtesy of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Original article follows.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that heroin use more than doubled in individuals between the ages of 18-25 in the last 10 years. The government called the problem a national epidemic. Statistics show that nearly 15,000 people died from an overdose in 2018 alone.

Despite the growing concern over heroin use, the problem can seem far away until someone you know suffers from addiction. It may not be obvious, but if you suspect a loved one suffers heroin dependency, you can look for certain signs.

Physical Indicators

Many times, signs of heroin addiction can be right in front of you. You can look for certain physical alterations to determine whether a person is using.

  • Drowsiness – Heroin causes users to feel an immediate sense of euphoria or clouded thinking, followed by prolonged sense of sleepiness and disorientation. Many users display moments of hyper-alertness that precede suddenly nodding off.
  • Swollen tissues – One of the common ways users administer heroin is through injection. The constant lacerations and holes in the skin can lead to swollen tissues and pus pockets under the skin.
  • Weight loss and gauntness – Heroin takes a severe toll on the body. Addicts constantly focus on obtaining the next high, forgoing nutrition and health. Weight loss, dark under eyes, and an unkempt appearance can all reflect drug use.
  • Track marks – Because the most common form of heroin intake is through a needle, marks will appear around the body after constant use. Look for needle marks, scarring, scabbing, and bruises from needle insertion.

Behavioral Changes

Heroin affects brain function, which can also alter emotions and behavior. If your loved one seems different or is acting unusually, it might be an indication of heroin addiction.

Common behavioral changes include:

  • Withdrawn
  • Unpredictable mood swings
  • Sudden lying or stealing
  • Aggression
  • Alienation

Drug Paraphernalia

Heroin addicts gravitate towards commonly used paraphernalia to achieve their high. If you are worried your loved one is addicted, you can look around for certain objects.

  • Syringes – Users often inject heroin into their veins. Thus, if the person has hypodermic needles without having a related medical condition, this should be a red flag.
  • Aluminum foil – Another method of ingesting heroin is by smoking the drug between two pieces of aluminum foil. If you find burned pieces of foil, it might indicate a serious problem.
  • Glass or metal pipes – Heroin users can consume the drug using a pipe with a bulbous end. If they don’t have the actual pipe, they may make their own device using household items. Look out for such contraptions.
  • Balloons and baggies – Check for small bags or balloons that have been tied off. This is one of the common ways in which heroin is concealed.

Heroin addiction can be deadly and change the lives of both the addict and their family. If your loved one struggles with heroin dependency, contact our New Jersey drug detox center. We can help you and your family get their lives back.

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