How to recognize the early warning signs of heroin addiction
Heroin use can be difficult to detect in the early stages, but knowing what to look for can help save someone’s life. Heroin addiction is on the rise in America, fueled by the growing epidemic of prescription opioid abuse. According to the 2016 National Heroin Threat Assessment Summary published by the DEA, heroin addiction has spread to younger, more affluent users and there is no longer a “typical” heroin user. Heroin use has spread to every part of the country, leaving communities across America struggling to help rising numbers of heroin addicts regain control of their lives. Spotting the early warning signs of heroin addiction makes it possible to get treatment for a loved one before they face the possibly deadly consequences of using this drug.
Spotting the first signs of heroin abuse can be difficult for several reasons. Parents and loved ones unfamiliar with the effects of drug addiction may not recognize the signs that someone is abusing drugs, or they may mistake the signs and symptoms of heroin use for other issues. Mental health disorders and substance abuse can appear in conjunction, creating what is known as a dual diagnosis. When you know what to look for, however, there are certain telltale physical, behavioral, and emotional indicators that occur when someone has become addicted to heroin.
Physical signs of heroin addiction
Some heroin users inject the drug, so a sudden switch to long sleeved shirts and pants in hot temperatures can be taken as a clear warning sign of heroin addiction. Heroin is now frequently inhaled, snorted, or smoked, however, particularly in the early stages of addiction. That means that heroin addicts may not exhibit track marks that indicate an obvious problem. Look instead for dilated pupils, sluggish movements, and labored or slurred speech. Common signs of heroin abuse include a runny nose unrelated to a cold or allergies, sudden weight loss, and decreased attention to personal grooming and hygiene. Heroin addiction causes drastic changes in sleep patterns, so a person may appear exhausted all the time or suddenly fall asleep.
Behavioral symptoms of heroin addiction
When a person becomes addicted to heroin, some clear behavioral changes occur. Heroin addicts often start skipping school or missing work, and lose interest in hobbies, sports, and activities they used to enjoy. They get into arguments, begin breaking promises and commitments, and become increasingly isolated from family and friends. Heroin addicts begin stealing money or valuables to pay for their addiction, using improbable lies to try to cover their actions.
Psychological signs of heroin addiction
Heroin addiction takes a toll on the psychological wellbeing of users. Look for drastic, unpredictable moods and outbursts, and extreme irritability. Instead of anger, some heroin users may display unexplainable fear, paranoia, or anxiety.
The dangers of heroin addiction
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the CDC reports that deaths from heroin overdoses tripled from 2010 to 2014. Deaths from heroin overdose have spiked sharply in 2016, with one city reporting 174 heroin overdoses in six days. These overdoses have been attributed to heroin containing lethal levels of other drugs that were mixed in before the drug was sold. These figures show that overdose can occur at any time, even if a user is in the first stages of addiction.
Getting treatment for heroin addiction
If you recognize the early warning signs of heroin addiction in someone you know, it is important to approach them compassionately, without judgement or accusations. Heroin addicts are often in denial and refuse to admit they have a problem, so you may need to seek help from an addiction recovery specialist. Stopping heroin use, in even in the early stages of addiction, can cause severe withdrawal symptoms so an inpatient medical detox and rehabilitation with a relapse prevention program may be the best solution.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.