Heroin Abuse: Effects, Signs & Symptoms


Heroin abuse, or opioid use disorder, is a very serious illness with troubling consequences that can range from financial problems and damaged relationships to incarceration and overdose. If you or someone you care about is struggling with heroin abuse, you are not alone. The number of heroin users in the U.S. has been rising since 2007. From 2002 to 2016, the number of people meeting the criteria for addiction to heroin rose from 214,000 to 626,000.1 Know the signs of heroin use disorder and how to reach out for help if you or someone you love is struggling.

Signs You May Struggle with Heroin Use Disorder

According to the criteria set out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there are several specific signs that you may be struggling with an opioid use disorder2, or in other words a heroin addiction. You may be diagnosed with a mild, moderate or severe disorder, depending on how many of these you meet:

  • Often you end up using more heroin than you wanted to or for a longer period of time than you intended.
  • You keep trying to cut back or stop, but you just can’t do it.
  • You spend a lot of time thinking about, getting, using and recovering from using heroin.
  • Cravings strike often when you are not using heroin.
  • Your responsibilities at home or work are not getting met because of your heroin use.
  • The relationships you have with friends and family are suffering because of your drug use.
  • You’ve given up some activities you used to enjoy in order to spend more time and money on heroin.
  • You have used heroin in situations that were dangerous.
  • You continue to use the drug even though it is causing you physical or mental health problems.
  • You’ve developed tolerance to heroin, needing to use more and more just to get high or even to feel normal.
  • When you aren’t using heroin, you start to feel withdrawal symptoms and turn back to the drug to get relief.

Signs of Heroin Abuse

If you are concerned that someone you care about may be addicted to heroin, look for these signs. Someone who is misusing a drug can go to great lengths to hide the problems their behaviors cause, so it may be difficult to observe some of these criteria. It’s also important to watch for signs of opioid intoxication, which may be more difficult to hide3:

  • Drowsiness, sleepiness
  • Being unaware of people or things around them
  • Difficulty paying attention or remembering things
  • Slurred speech
  • Smaller pupils
  • Impaired coordination
  • Mood changes, including depression
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Needle marks on arms or feet

Reach Out For Help

We provide holistic care and treatment using an individualized approach specifically tailored to your needs. Our goal is to help you lead a healthy, substance-free life with adaptive coping and problem-solving skills. Contact us today for more information on our certified staff of professionals and first-rate facilities.

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