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Chester County Press

Signs and symptoms of heroin use

08/21/2013 08:20AM ● By ACL

A heroin and cocaine user's police mugshots. Left image taken in 2003, and right image taken in 2007.



If you're concerned about a loved one who seems like he or she might be abusing heroin, the problem is that the drug user is seldom honest about the substances he or she is abusing. It may come down to being a detective and figuring out what drug your loved one is abusing by tracking down the signs of heroin use.

Remnants of heroin use that you might find

Heroin is usually smoked, snorted or injected. So depending on the method of administration, you could find remnants of the drugs or the paraphernalia of drug use left behind. Heroin itself may be a powdery or crumbly substance, ranging all the way from off-white to dark brown. Black tar heroin is nearly black and is sticky instead of powdery.

You might find syringes, or small glass or metal pipes. A person dissolving the drug and injecting it might also leave dirty spoons and lighters around. A person injecting also needs some device to cause the veins to enlarge, so there may be belts or rubber tubing in the area where he or she is using the heroin.

Fast symptoms of heroin use

Heroin is a fast-acting opiate. When it's injected, there is a surge of euphoria that arrives within seconds. Those using the drug other ways may not feel this surge as sharply.

The user will get a dry mouth and his or her skin will flush. The user's pupils will be constricted. He will feel heavy and may fade in and out of wakefulness. Heroin users may nod off suddenly. Breathing will be slowed, which is how an overdose kills.

When awake, the person's thinking will be unclear. They will tend to lose some of their memory. Their decision-making and self-control are likely to deteriorate.

Some of the signs of heroin use are itching, nausea and vomiting. Another sign is the constipation often suffered by opiate abusers. The regular user of this drug may look for laxatives. They may experience skin or other kinds of infections and a lowered immunity to illness.

The user's pain will be suppressed, which is not surprising because opiates are used for pain relief. On the tragic side, however, is the fact that the signs of heroin use can include spontaneous abortion.

Addiction to heroin is a trap

One of the many sad things about heroin is that the addict is seldom aware of the damage being done to his or her life. They will often begin to neglect their own needs, the acquisition of the day's dose of heroin being far more important. They may not eat properly and may look haggard if heroin abuse is prolonged or heavy.

Some heroin addicts may ask for help, but the majority fear the pain and sickness of withdrawal. It is very often up to the family members to rescue the heroin-addicted person and get him or her into treatment. It may only be by knowing the signs of heroin use that you can detect the addiction and begin to make arrangements for rehabilitation.

An addict may try to conceal the symptoms of heroin use by wearing long-sleeved clothing to cover needle marks. 

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