Heroin is a powerful opiate that’s long been a source of addictions, overdoses, and deaths. As the United States learns to manage the opioid epidemic, heroin is one opiate that many people see mentioned, but they may not realize just how much the drug can impact a person’s life.

Family and loved ones may suspect someone close to them is using heroin, but they may be unaware of what the physical signs of heroin addiction look like. While many people addicted to heroin appear fine physically, there are cases of people whose appearance and demeanor changed as a result of their heroin use.

In the past, heroin was primarily injected, so marks signifying needle use was one of the primary indicators of heroin abuse. Current trends include snorting or smoking heroin, which makes it harder to recognize heroin use than it once was.

Also, many people addicted to heroin will go to great lengths to hide their addiction. They can be dishonest or try to cover up what they’re doing. Their families and loved ones may be unaware of the addiction at first.

However, if you learn what the physical signs of heroin addiction look like, you can spot the red flags earlier.

Understanding What Heroin Addicts Look Like
When someone abuses heroin, they will often lose weight. That sudden weight loss can be one of the first physical signs for friends and family members to watch out for. The weight loss often affects how their face looks, so people with a heroin addiction may look tired, gaunt or older than they are.

The reason for weight loss is the fact that heroin can make you nauseous, leading to vomiting and appetite loss.

People abusing heroin may also have dark circles around their eyes and a pale complexion. Heroin use impacts blood pressure and heart rate, so people may also have a bit of a bluish tint to their skin.

When you take heroin and other opioids, it can cause itchiness and people may start itching and picking at their faces, causing sores and scabs.

Heroin also tends to make people’s coordination unbalanced and their limbs feel heavy, so it can seem at times like they’re dragging themselves as they’re walking or they’re slouching over strangely.

Of course, if someone is injecting heroin, they may also have marks where the needles were used, or they might wear long sleeves and pants even when the weather is hot to hide the needle marks.

People addicted to heroin can have abscesses or infections on their skin from injecting the drug, or sores on their nose or lips and burns on their fingers from smoking it. The skin around their eyes may appear puffy, as well.

The aforementioned signs are not the only indicators of heroin use. The drug has many physical effects on people depending on the volume and regularity of heroin use. Some other signs of heroin use include:

  • A persistent cough
  • Dry mouth
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Nosebleeds
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Runny nose
  • Constipation
  • Loss of menstrual cycle

Beyond the physical changes that heroin can cause, the drug impacts a person’s behavior too. In some cases, recognizing a change in personality and behavior may be easier for friends and family members to identify than the physical signs of heroin addiction.

Behavioral changes can include:

  • Seeming disoriented or uncoordinated
  • Being jittery or alert and then nodding off shortly after that
  • Excessive sleep
  • Declining performance in school or work
  • Slurred speech
  • Apathy
  • Hostility
  • Lack of motivation
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Declining hygiene
  • No concern for their appearance
  • Being alone
  • Withdrawing from loved ones
  • Wearing sunglasses more than usual

Aside from physical appearances and behavior, the presence of heroin paraphernalia is an indicator of addiction. The following are some of the items that you may find when someone close to you is using heroin:

  • Syringes
  • Orange caps from syringes
  • Burned spoons
  • Aluminum foil or gum wrappers
  • Shoelaces or missing shoelaces
  • Straws
  • Empty pen cases
  • Small plastic bags
  • Bottled water and bottle caps
  • Razor blades
  • Empty drug capsules
  • Cotton balls or q-tips

It’s important to realize that there’s not always outward signs that indicate heroin addiction, but if there are any red flags, it’s important to speak with a medical professional.

If you or a loved one live with an addiction to heroin, contact The Recovery Village and speak to a representative about addiction treatment options. By using individualized treatment plans that cater to each patient’s needs, The Recovery Village addresses addiction along with any co-occurring disorders. Begin your path to a healthier future today.

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