Heroin is notorious as one of the most malicious and deadly drugs on the market—one so ravenous that it consumes the user’s life, his connections, his job, and any thread of self-respect. The stigma attached to heroin makes it difficult for recovering addicts to speak out, making it seem like no one ever recovers from this beast of a drug. However, heroin recovery happens every day, and while quitting heroin is an everyday battle, many people conquer it and move on to live happy, sober lives.
Heroin has long been one of the most addictive drugs on the market. It falls under the category of “opiate” (also known as a narcotic) due to its ancestor, the opium poppy. Although it was initially marketed as a non-addictive alternative to opium and morphine, its victims have been forced to live with the lie as they bear the back-breaking weight of addiction. Even when governments wised up and outlawed the drug, it was too late—drug pushers learned the value of it, and users became lifelong customers.
Heroin, a sedative, works on the central nervous system to numb pain and cause a rush of euphoria. It is refined from morphine and although its effects are similar, it is far more potent. It is sold in different forms but is most typically found as a powder—at its purest state, it is white; more commonly, it is brown, yellow, brown or even gray. Another form that is rapidly gaining popularity is Black Tar heroin, also known as “Mexican Mud.”
Signs of Heroin Addiction
The most popular form of consumption is through injection. Like the John Prine song Sam Stone, whose lyrics read, “There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes,” track marks along the arms and legs are a telltale sign of heroin abuse. Other symptoms of heroin use include:
- Shortness of breath
- Small pupils
- Sudden changes in behavior or actions
- Lying or other deceptive behavior
- Lack of attention to hygiene and physical appearance
- Weight loss
- Runny nose that can’t be explained by a medical condition
- Loss of menstrual cycle in women
- Cuts, bruises or scabs from skin picking
- Infections or abscesses at injection sites
- Lack of interest in hobbies and favorite activities
- Apathy and loss of motivation toward future goals
- Significant increases in time spent sleeping
- Sudden decline in performance at school or work, including expulsion or loss of employment
Another sign of heroin abuse is the paraphernalia used to prepare the injections. These may be found in the user’s car, home, or on his person. Paraphernalia includes:
- Needles or syringes not used for medical purposes
- Burned silver spoons
- Aluminum foil with burn marks (gum wrappers work, too)
- Missing shoelaces or tied ties that are used as a tie off for injection sites
- Straws with burn marks
- Small plastic bags with white powdery residue
Heroin is so addictive that more than one-fourth of people who try it end up with a crippling addiction to it. There are currently more than 900,000 chronic heroin users in the United States.
Most people don’t actually know they are addicted to heroin until they go into withdrawal. Symptoms vary but can include bone pain, muscle pain, restlessness, cold flashes, vomiting and diarrhea. Cravings are severe and addicts feel like they will do anything to get more of the drug.
Even when physical withdrawal is over, however, it can take months and years to truly overcome the mental and emotional effects of heroin addiction. Although quitting heroin is an everyday battle, each passing day brings the addict farther away from it and closer to a life of true sobriety.