The heroin problem in the U.S. has become an epidemic. Overdose and death rates related to heroin and other opioids have risen exponentially. This increase is partly because of the increasing number of people with substance use disorders, as well as the strength and potency of drugs now being sold on the streets.
With heroin, because of the nature of the drug and the intensity of the high and the other effects on the brain, people can become addicted to the drug after a few uses.
It’s important for parents and other people who believe their loved one could be at risk for addiction to learn about the drug, its effects and the signs of use. Addiction is a chronic disease, meaning there are treatment options and ways to manage it, but people struggling with addiction are often reluctant to even say they have a problem and take the steps necessary for treatment. That’s why identifying red flags can be useful for their loved ones.
As well as the nicknames for heroin, there are also slang names for using it and the tools that people use to get high on heroin. The phrase “chasing the dragon” is commonly used to describe inhaling heroin vapors to get high, while injecting heroin into a vein using a needle is described as “mainlining”. Additionally, if someone injects heroin into their skin instead of into a vein, it’s called “skin popping”. Mixing heroin and cocaine is typically called “speedballing”. When heroin is combined with other substances, ranging from household substances to deadly substances like fentanyl, this process is called “cutting”.
These items are only in a heroin kit if a person injects the drug. Paraphernalia may be different if someone smokes or snorts the drug. For smoking the drug, a heroin kit might include a glass pipe of some type.
Heroin itself is sold as a crumbly powder, and it may be off-white or dark brown. There’s also something called black tar heroin, which looks much like the name indicates. It’s sticky and dark brown or black. Other elements of a heroin kit may include lighters and rubber tubing or belts, both of which are used to tie-off and make veins larger.
If you have a child or a loved one that you believe is using the drug, or you find a heroin kit, it’s important to understand that there are ways you can help them. People struggling with heroin addiction don’t necessarily have to voluntarily go into treatment for it to be effective. Keeping an eye out for signs of active heroin use is important if you have any suspicions at all.
Along with the items in a heroin kit, there are other signs of drug use as well. When someone uses heroin, they’ll first feel euphoric, and they may appear to be energetic or to have a falsely inflated sense of well-being. Then after a few minutes, they’ll start to appear drowsy. They may nod off, have coordination problems or seem slow and heavy. Long-term signs of heroin use can include track marks if the person injects the drug, and strange sleeping and eating patterns. People who use heroin may become secretive and avoid family, friends and responsibilities.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.