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Signs of Heroin Addiction

Signs of Heroin Addiction

What is Heroin

Heroin is an extremely addictive illegal opioid that is made from morphine. It is a natural substance extracted from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants. These species of plants are grown in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. It comes in a white or brown powder form, but can also be in the form of a dark sticky substance called black tar heroin. 

This deadly drug was produced on a commercial scale in 1898 by German pharmaceutical and life sciences company, Bayer Company. It was used to help treat tuberculosis as well as a remedy for morphine addiction. At first glance, it seemed to be very successful. Unfortunately, as time went on, the tolerance to this drug rose and the addiction began. 

Heroin can be injected, sniffed, snorted, or smoked. People have mixed heroin with crack cocaine, which is called speedballing. The most common way heroin is used is by injecting it into your bloodstream, causing it to go to the brain almost instantaneously. With using needles to inject this drug comes additional risks, like contracting HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and other dangerous infections.    


Heroin is one of the most addictive and deadliest drugs. The chronic use of heroin will eventually change the structure and function of the brain. With most drugs, users build a tolerance, resulting in higher and more frequent doses to get high. When someone gets addicted to a drug like heroin, you develop a physical and psychological dependence on this drug. This means you can’t function in your day-to-day without the use or the high.  

Heroin gives you a sense of euphoria, feeling a surge of pleasure and happiness. In reality, this feeling attracts users and gets them hooked, keeping them coming back to escape. There are many physical signs that indicate that someone is abusing heroin.

Here are some things to look out for: 

  • Needle track marks on body 
  • Abnormally small pupils
  • Dry mouth
  • Flushed skin
  • Tiredness 
  • Loss of self control
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Itchiness
  • Confused or disoriented
  • Memory loss
  • Slow movements and thinking

Thankfully, if you suspect a loved one may be abusing this deadly drug, these symptoms may help you catch the problem before it is too late. 


Drug overdose is a touchy subject and can be a terrifying reality when a loved one is abusing a drug like heroin. According to the NIH, nearly 50,000 people in the United States died from an opioid-related overdose. When someone is overdosing on heroin their breathing will begin to slow, and oftentimes stop completely. This will send the person into hypoxia, which is a decrease in the amount of oxygen that is reaching the brain. If this does not kill the person, going into hypoxia can leave someone in a coma or cause permanent brain damage. 

Here are some signs of a heroin overdose:

  • Slow breathing
  • Bluish colored lips or nails
  • Weak pulse
  • Slowed or stopped heartbeat
  • Cold, damp skin
  • Shaking 
  • Unable to communicate/ speak
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Repeated loss of consciousness
  • Low blood pressure

It is dire to act quickly if or when you notice someone with these symptoms. Calling 911 right away can potentially save a person’s life. If you know someone who abuses narcotics, you can also carry Narcan with you, which can treat an emergency overdose. 


Like we spoke about above, when you abuse a drug like heroin, your body creates physical and psychological dependents on it to function. Withdrawing from drugs can be extremely hard and strenuous on one’s body and mind. There is no way to avoid withdrawal and this deters users from wanting to stop because of the horror stories.  

Withdrawal symptoms can develop as quickly as a few hours after stopping use. Here is what withdrawal symptoms can look like:

  • Uncontrollable sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Sleep issues
  • Diarrhea
  • Extreme heroin cravings
  • Uncontrollable leg movements
  •  Restlessness 

Going through withdrawal can be extremely difficult. It is important to talk to someone and get the professional help you need. 

How to Get Help For a Heroin Addiction

If you are the person abusing the drug, the first step is admitting you have a problem. No one can get you the help you need until you are willing and ready. There are thousands of amazing recovery centers around the US ready to help you on your way to recovery. If you know someone who is struggling with an addiction, reaching out to a center can help find the most effective way to get your loved one the treatment they need. 
If you or a loved one is ready to make the first step to recovery, contact Harm Reduction Center for a personalized journey away from addiction.