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  • Heroin is an extremely addictive opioid that can lead to serious drug abuse. Made from morphine, this drug contains mind-altering substances that come from the opium poppy plant.

    Heroin is part of a class of drugs known as opioids and can have a different color and look. For instance, it can be white, brown, and even black. 

    Heroin has a variety of street names that can be useful when trying to identify if your loved one lives with heroin addiction, including:

    • black tar 
    • white horse
    • smack 
    • junk 
    • skunk 
    • brown sugar
    • horse 
    • ska 

    If you suspect a loved one is using heroin, it’s important to know some of the warning signs.

    1. Changes In Physical Appearance

    As far as physical signs go, there are many. To start with, you’ll want to pay attention to the pupils in a person’s eyes. A person on heroin will usually have smaller pupils than normal, a common side effect.

    Another indicator that your loved one is abusing this powerful opioid drug is marks on the skin. Those that inject heroin with a syringe into their bodies will have marks present at the site of where the needle went in. These are known as “track marks.”

    Scabs can also be a sign of heroin use. The injection site on the body can begin to scab over. As it begins to heal, your loved one can experience itchiness. 

    They may also neglect personal hygiene, looking disheveled or putting substance use over self-care and cleanliness. 

    2. Strange Behaviors

    The person with heroin addiction may exhibit a wide array of seemingly strange behaviors. Their behavior and their daily routine might change drastically.

    Your loved one may start to show signs of mood changes, erratic behavior, and even an aggressive demeanor due to their drug use. The more addiction takes hold, the more the person sees the drug as the main priority, letting everything, and everyone, fall by the wayside.

    If your loved one has ever struggled with mental illness, you might be able to easily spot other behavioral signs dealing with mental health, such as lethargy, depression, and anxiety.

    3. Paraphernalia & Missing Valuables

    There are more obvious signs that your loved one is abusing heroin, such as finding drug paraphernalia in their home. 

    As one becomes more addicted to heroin, they can experience bouts of disorientation and forgetfulness. They can then inadvertently leave out paraphernalia without realizing it.

    If your loved one is currently living with you and you’ve noticed that some of your more valuable possessions have gone missing, this could also be another unfortunate sign that your loved one uses heroin. 

    In order to get their next opiate drug, they will need money. Theft can happen, which can lead to legal troubles, and other problems. The effects of heroin reach far and wide and can have negative consequences for all involved.

    4. Secretiveness & Avoidance

    Addiction can be life-threatening and can affect anyone. When it does, you can see signs of one’s character begin to change. Those addicted will likely try to hide heroin use.

    However, this is a big secret which is almost impossible to hide. Your loved one may start to lie to you and other family members about what they’ve been doing and who they’ve been spending their time with. 

    The secretiveness will begin to show itself when your loved one doesn’t show up to family functions or other social events. It’s likely they will make up an excuse as to why they didn’t show up.

    5. New Group Of Friends

    Another strong indicator that your loved one lives with heroin addiction is when they suddenly, as if almost overnight, have a new group of friends. If you have the chance to be around them or to meet your loved one’s friends, be sure to pay close attention.

    Your loved one’s friends might use the same slang terms as you’ve noticed your loved one use. Their friends might also show physical symptoms, such as “track marks” and small pupils.

    Help Your Loved One Into Addiction Treatment

    Opioid addiction can lead to a heroin overdose, severe withdrawal symptoms, and even mental health disorders. If you believe a loved one needs help, reach out to one of our trained healthcare professionals to learn about our individualized treatment programs.

    We operate both inpatient and outpatient substance abuse treatment centers. We provide behavioral therapy and other forms of healthcare to help with physical dependence and the effects of withdrawal.

    To get your loved one the help they deserve, please contact Ark Behavioral Health today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    National Institute on Drug Abuse - Heroin
    National Institute on Drug Abuse - How to Recognize a Substance Use Disorder
    National Institute on Drug Abuse - Principles of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment
    National Institute on Drug Abuse - Signs of Heroin Use

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on August 20, 2022
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