Heroin is a highly addictive and dangerous synthetic drug that produces a “downer” effect for users, inducing a state of euphoria and relaxation by blocking the brain’s ability to perceive pain. Heroin is actually derived from morphine, and when the drug is snorted, smoked or injected, users often feel a “rushing” sensation as the drug enters the brain. Despite the serious short- and long-term consequences associated with heroin abuse and addiction, use of the opioid remains a major public health problem in the United States and worldwide. As of 2008, estimates showed that roughly 3.8 million people had tried heroin at least once, and in 2006 alone, heroin overdoses accounted for a whopping 164,000 emergency room visits.
Common Signs of Heroin Use
Users and abusers of heroin may initially be able to conceal signs of their drug problem, but long-term heroin use results in an increased tolerance to the drug. With an elevated tolerance, heroin addicts typically exhibit more definitive physical and emotional symptoms of heroin abuse and addiction. The following are five of the most common warning signs of heroin addiction:
- Changes in behavior – If your loved one is addicted to heroin, he may exhibit telltale behavioral changes or act in ways that are deceptive, unexplained or unexpected. For example, he may start lying to cover up his addiction, exhibit slurred or incoherent speech, and sleep for long periods of time. He may also become hostile towards you and other loved ones, and begin breaking promises or commitments in favor of getting high.
- Changes in physical appearance – People addicted to heroin may also exhibit physical changes or changes in appearance that should signal a serious problem. They may start wearing long sleeves and long pants, even in warm weather, to cover up their bruises and needle marks, and may experience a loss of appetite coupled with significant weight loss. They may also pay less attention to personal hygiene and show disregard for their overall physical appearance.
- Spending time with a new group of people – Heroin addicts prefer to get high in a group, rather than solo, so if your loved one begins spending a significant amount of time with a new group of friends, it may be a sign that he or she is suffering from a heroin addiction. This is especially true if these new friends exhibit the same warning signs as your loved one.
- Financial difficulties – Heroin is a very expensive drug, and someone who is addicted to heroin will do virtually anything to get their hands on the drug. If the money you set aside for groceries or bills goes missing, or if your loved one begins selling personal possessions for cash, this could be a sign that you are living with a heroin addict.
Loss of interest or concentration – The most obvious sign of a drug problem is when the person in question loses interest in activities or hobbies he or she once enjoyed doing. When a person becomes addicted to heroin, it is often very difficult for them to concentrate and perform as well as before. They may begin to do poorly in school or at work, and may also start to drift away from loved ones, unwilling to communicate.