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Signs of Heroin Addiction

signs of heroin addiction feature


My name is Tony. I’m in my parents’ room. They’re away on vacation. I have to take care of our family dog while they are gone. My parents didn’t take me with them on vacation because they said they were done helping me waste time at bars. So here I am.

Little do my parents know, drinking and smoking is not even the beginning of my problems … I’ve been shooting up heroin the last couple of months. They have no idea how bad things have really gotten. I don’t want them to know.

They’ve got to have money somewhere … Sock drawer, no. Under the bed, no. In the closet, no. I’m screwed. I’m really, really screwed this time. I am needing the next hit, and I’m a payment behind to a very unforgiving dealer.

I know where … I scurry down to my childhood room. I’m supposed to meet this dealer dude in an hour. If I don’t have this payment … I don’t even want to think about it, it’s just not an option.

Open, close, flip, shake. I comb through every item in my room. I’m coming up with nothing. I look across the hall at the door of my little brother’s room. He’s only 10, so he’s on vacation with my parents. My brother’s the good son they were hoping for. Maybe I could just borrow some money from him and put it back before he notices … no, that would be a new low, even for me.

Wait. Yeah … I find my piggy bank in the depths of the closet. Shake, shake, shake. All coins. I unplug it, and there are a few dollars. Not much, but better than nothing. It’ll do. I rush out of my room. [CRASH] What was that? I look down and there is shattered glass everywhere. It’s an old framed photo of my grandpa and me.

My heart aches. My grandpa was my soft landing. When I wasn’t meeting the picture-perfect ideal my parents thought I should be, he was always there to tell a joke to lighten the mood. Simply put, he made me feel special, seen, and understood. My gramps died last year after a long, hard battle with cancer. Losing him hit me like a ton of bricks … It still does.

That’s when heroin came into my life. Heroin numbed the pain in a way drinking and smoking cigs just couldn’t. As a man, it’s not acceptable to cry. I needed to tap out in a way that I thought I could hide and control.

Little did I know, heroin would soon control me. Physically, mentally, emotionally. I live for heroin, while it could kill me. How messed up is that? I’m done rolling the dice every day to see if I make it to see tomorrow. No one should be a prisoner to a drug. A prisoner to their body needing the drug. I don’t see things getting better for me unless I get real help, real soon.

What Is Heroin?

Heroin is an opioid drug. Heroin can be white, brown, or black in color and have a powder or sticky goo consistency. Heroin can be smoked or snorted in its raw form. When heroin is mixed with water, it can be injected intravenously. Heroin is extremely addictive.

Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

When a person goes to addiction treatment, often the first step is to meet with a mental health professional. The mental health professional will ask lots of questions to get to know the person better, understand their needs, and work together with them to develop treatment goals.

If a person is using heroin, it is likely the professional assessing them will consider a diagnosis of opioid use disorder. Opioid use disorder is a type of substance use disorder found in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders Fifth Edition” (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.

To personalize our discussion about the signs and symptoms of opioid use disorder, we will continue following the story of Tony as he is meeting with an addiction counselor at a treatment facility. Tony and his addiction counselor are reviewing the diagnostic criteria for opioid use disorder to see how he matches up. This is an opportunity for Tony to learn more about the ways heroin has impacted him.

By choosing to review the symptoms of opioid use disorder with Tony, the counselor is setting the tone for Tony’s treatment to be cooperative. By working with Tony, the counselor will gain a more thorough account of Tony’s history that led to his heroin misuse. The counselor has learned from experience that reviewing symptoms or signs can be an educational experience for clients. This activity may lead to greater self-awareness for the client. The counselor hopes that by reviewing the impact of heroin upon Tony’s life, he will be able to identify the reasons Tony is here in treatment, which will lead to identifying treatment goals for the future.

The symptoms listed would be occurring in at least a one-year or more time period. If you or your loved one has two or more of the following symptoms of opioid use disorder, it would be wise to consider seeking heroin addiction treatment:

  • Heroin is taken in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than planned. Yeah, I definitely do take more heroin than I’d like to. Me and heroin have spent a lot of time together. (The counselor asks, “Any overdoses?”) Yeah, at least two that I can remember. I genuinely thought I was going to die. If I didn’t get the help when I did, I believe I would have.
  • Ongoing desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control heroin use. I’ve wanted to quit but haven’t tried yet. I started using heroin about four months ago, after my grandpa died.
  • Great deal of time is spent on activities to get heroin, use heroin, or recover from its effects. Yeah, this is the current hell I’m in. When I first started using heroin, I got it through a friend. That friend got out of the game, and now the only person I know with heroin is a bad dude. If he would have passed me in the street a year ago, I would have avoided him like the plague. He has a horrible reputation. But when you’re desperate to get the next high, you don’t care how you get it, you just know you have to. Even if it means literally risking your life.
  • Craving, or a strong desire to use heroin. It’s all I think about. Heroin is a record that won’t stop playing in my brain. I’ve lost countless friends because they think I’ve “crossed over” now with using heroin. Drinking and cigs is normal and OK. Use heroin and you are automatically a full-blown drug addict. It’s changed how my friends think about me. It’s changed how I think about me. I look and feel awful. I want to get better.
  • Continued heroin use that results in failure to fulfill major role duties at work, school, or home. I used to bartend. I would be buzzed from drinking at times but overall was able to manage. Once heroin got added to the mix, I was late for night shifts. Even though I was the best bartender and made the most tips by far, they had to cut me for being late and often missing shifts altogether. That was a low point. I had to move in with my parents. Now I’m couch-surfing with whoever will take me, and the options are getting slim.
  • Continued heroin use even when you have a pattern of social or interpersonal problems that are caused or made worse by heroin. Besides losing my friends, my family is pissed off at me. They see that I’m late to everything, show up without gifts to events, and think I look worse and worse. Right now, they think all of this is because I’m partying with booze and smoking. They have absolutely no idea about the heroin. I think they would really flip their lid if they found out. I think I’d be totally pushed out of the family if they knew the whole truth. They would not want me around my little brother. I don’t think I should be around him either like this. I try to avoid my brother because he may ask questions like, “Why do you look so tired? Are you sick?” He’s the one person I won’t lie to.
  • Important social, work, or recreational activities are given up or done less because of heroin use. I couldn’t even imagine what I would do if I weren’t trying to hunt down heroin every day. I would like to work again. Maybe not bartending, but something with people. I am a people person. I had to know people to make tips for bartending. Now, I’ve had to understand people better than anyone the past few months to stay alive. I’ve had to predict when someone is going to attack me or rip me off. I have to watch everyone’s moves. I owe people money, and it’s a bad situation to be in.
  • Continued heroin use in situations in which it is physically hazardous. Every time I take heroin, I think this is the time I could overdose again and really die. There may not be anyone around to help me next time.
  • Continuing to use heroin when physical or psychological problems are caused or made worse by heroin use. All I know is that I started heroin after my grandpa died. I wanted to feel nothing, and it helped me do that. (“Do you think you’ve struggled with feeling sad or worried?” asked the counselor.) I mean, sure, I think everyone does. For me, I have been told over and over again to bury it. Bury anything that feels hard. Look OK to the outside world. It’s obviously not working out well for me. I’d like to figure out what’s wrong with me. I think talking to someone like you could probably help me. (“What about physical problems related to using heroin?”) I don’t know for sure. I haven’t been tested for anything, and to be honest, I’m scared to. I haven’t been careful with needles. My arms are starting to look all messed up. I’ve started to hide them by wearing long sleeves. I can’t keep it up. It’s almost summer. My family will ask why I’m wearing long sleeves. I am trying to stop lying. I feel like since I’ve started heroin, that is all I do. Lie. I’m not proud of it.
  • Having tolerance or a need for more and more heroin to achieve a high. Feel less high with continued use of the same amount of heroin. I always want more. I always want to get more. I don’t think the high I have had lately is anything close to my first high. I’m always trying to chase that first high. Nothing compares to it. But if I’ll never get it again, I don’t want it. I want to stop chasing it.
  • Having withdrawal symptoms when heroin use is reduced or stopped. Taking heroin to make you feel better or to avoid withdrawal. I mean, this is the first time I’ve really stopped taking heroin since I started, and I feel like crap. It’s hard for me to sit up in this chair. I want to lay down, and everything hurts. I feel sick. I am going to be sick.

Stats on Heroin Addiction In California

From 2015-2017, an annual average of 0.9% (or 38,000) young adults ages 18-25 in California qualified as having opioid use disorder in the past year. Among all individuals over the age of 12 in California, there were 5.8% or 1.93 million people that misused opioids, and 1.1% or 348,193 people that qualified as having opioid use disorder. About one-fifth of people that misuse opioids also qualify as having opioid use disorder.

According to the California Health Care Almanac published in October 2018, the number of heroin-related emergency department visits in California more than tripled between the years 2006 and 2017.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that from 2018 to 2019, California had an increase in heroin overdose death rates. In 2018, the heroin-involved overdose death rate was 778 people. In 2019, the heroin-involved overdose death rate was 964 people.

Treatment for Heroin Addiction at Pathways Recovery

Tony’s story may have reminded you of yourself or a loved one. His story is a story of loss in relation to substance use. Tony lost his grandpa, and this led to greater substance use, taking heroin. Tony could ultimately lose himself to heroin if he overdoses again.

Caring for someone struggling with heroin use or fighting it ourselves can often feel overwhelming and hopeless. It is difficult to be an observer to a problem we can’t fix. Losing ourselves or a loved one is a pain we are not ready to endure. Pathways Recovery offers compassionate care, resources, and most importantly — hope for the future.

Our heroin addiction treatment includes detox at our treatment center located near Sacramento, California. Heroin detox typically lasts seven-10 days. Our team of professional staff will monitor you throughout your stay and provide continued recommendations for care. Your comfort, health, and well-being are our top priority.

Pathways Recovery Is Here to Help

Gaining knowledge of the signs and symptoms of heroin addiction is helpful. These are our guideposts signaling treatment would be beneficial to ourselves or a loved one. If you or your loved one is seeking care to fight the strong grip of heroin addiction, please call (916) 735-8377 to begin your journey toward recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of drug makes your lips blue?

A heroin overdose may lead to blue or purplish-black lips and fingernails. In the case of heroin overdose, it is very important to call 911 and get immediate assistance.

What are four types of drugs?

According to an abnormal psychology textbook, the four main drug types are depressants, stimulants, opiates, and hallucinogens.

What qualifies as an addiction?

According to an abnormal psychology textbook, addiction or substance use disorder occurs when people use or misuse substances and this changes the way they think, feel, and behave. The substance or substances have a negative impact on a person’s life. The substance use may lead to relationship issues, job loss, health problems, etc.

How do you say no to drugs?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse offers “6 Tactful Tips for Resisting Peer Pressure to Use Drugs and Alcohol,” which include: offer to be a designated driver, say you are trying to stay healthy, mention having another obligation, hold on to a nonalcoholic drink while at parties, look busy, and say your parents are strict.