How to spot heroin addiction symptoms in someone you know
With heroin use spiraling out of control in this country, everyone should know how to identify heroin addiction symptoms. Heroin addiction is on the rise in this country, driven in large part by the epidemic of prescription opioid use. As patients finish their opioid prescriptions, they are increasingly turning to heroin, which produces the same high but much more cheaply. This has led to horrific scenes like the one in Cincinnati where 24 deaths from heroin overdoses occurred in a single night. Learning how to spot heroin addiction symptoms can help people get their loved ones treatment for their addiction before fatal consequences can occur.
How to spot heroin addiction symptoms
The early symptoms of heroin addiction are subtle and often go unrecognized, but it helps if you are alert and know what to look for. Look for the following heroin addiction symptoms:
Physical symptoms of heroin addiction can be:
- Dilated pupils
- Runny nose
- Sudden weight loss
- Slurred or labored speech
- Exhaustion or suddenly falling asleep
- Long-sleeve shirts (even in hot weather) to hide track marks
Behavioral signs and symptoms of heroin addiction include:
- Missing school or work
- Broken promises
- Pulling away from loved ones
- Loss of interest
If you notice any of the above heroin addiction symptoms, particularly in individuals who were prescribed opioids recently, it can be a strong indication that the person needs help. An addiction specialist can help you confront the person in a constructive manner, so you can get them the help they need to start on the road to recovery. The first step in that journey is heroin detoxification, as the individual stops taking heroin.
When people who are addicted to heroin try to quit, they experience withdrawal symptoms including diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. These symptoms can range from annoying and uncomfortable to life threatening, depending on the severity of addiction. The physical symptoms and craving for heroin can be so intensely uncomfortable during the detoxification process that many users abandon their efforts to get clean and relapse into heroin use before the last vestiges of the drug are cleared from their bodies.
Fortunately, there are medications that can ease the cravings that come with withdrawal from heroin and other opioids. These medications affect the same receptors as the illicit drugs, but with less chance of producing the highs and euphoric feelings that make heroin so addictive. These medications fall into three categories.
- Agonists such as methadone, which produce a similar response as heroin and must be distributed daily in an outpatient setting.
- Opioid antagonists, including Naltrexone, Depade, and Revia, which block the effects of heroin. These medications are non-addicting. An injectable form, Vivitrol, holds great promise as it can be administered once a month
- Partial opioid agonists such as Subutex, which combines an agonist with an opioid agonist. This medication produces withdrawal symptoms when injected but not if swallowed, which helps prevent abuse.
Addicts who are administered these drugs as they undergo heroin detox have a much greater chance of long-term recovery from their addiction.
The detox process alone is not sufficient to break heroin’s hold on addicted individuals. After undergoing detoxification, heroin addicts need to attend a heroin rehab center to get help overcoming their addiction. They will need to undergo intensive therapy that utilizes cognitive and behavioral methods to provide a strong foundation for recovery. Training in relapse prevention and coping skills can help addicts stay clean even in the face of temptation.
Recovering from heroin addiction isn’t easy, but if you recognize heroin addiction symptoms early and get an individual into a qualified heroin addiction treatment center where they can get the help they need, it is possible.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.