Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Addiction
It is important to understand that there is a wide range of signs and symptoms associated with heroin addiction. Heroin addiction has a tremendous impact on a users’ physical health, mental health, and psychological well-being.
Physical Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Use
A tell-tale physical sign of heroin addiction is track marks that can be found on the user’s arms, legs, and other parts of the body. These are the result of users injecting the drug intravenously, which is the most common route of administration. Common physical symptoms include constant runny nose, shallow and irregular breathing, nausea, vomiting, and flushed skin.
Additionally, users can experience dry mouth and can frequently contract respiratory infections. Because heroin suppresses appetite, users experience dramatic weight loss and will look emaciated and malnourished. When heroin enters the body, it produces histamines which cause the skin to become itchy and irritated. Scabs and bruises will appear when users scratch their skin—especially those areas where they inject the drug.
Psychological Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Addiction
When administered, heroin immediately begins to alter brain chemistry. Heroin robs the brain’s natural ability to produce neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. For long-time heroin addicts, they use the drug not so much to feel euphoria but to function normally and without feeling sickness or pain. Long-term heroin users will experience psychological symptoms which can be harrowing.
Common psychological symptoms of heroin use include hallucinations. These hallucinations can be visual or auditory. Heroin users will display considerable confusion and may not be aware of their surroundings. Additionally, psychological symptoms include delusions and extreme paranoia.
The moods displayed by users are both erratic and volatile. When the effects of heroin gradually wear off, users can experience periods of depression as well as anxiety. When on heroin, users experience euphoria, contentment, and happiness. Additionally, the mood symptoms of heroin use can include irritability, agitation, and hostility towards others. This hostility can be both verbal and physical.
Since brain functioning and moods are severely impacted by heroin use, those under the influence of the drug can display unusual behavior. For example, heroin users will avoid loved ones and continue to use heroin in isolation. When confronted about their use of heroin, users will often become defensive, combative and will lie about using the drug. They may also rationalize their use and blame others for their addiction.
For heroin addicts, their daily routine revolves around obtaining heroin and finding the money to buy the drug. As a result, their family, work, and education decrease in importance. Additionally, their personal hygiene and appearance decline. Other behavioral symptoms include slurred speech, apathy, and periods of activity followed by considerable periods of exhaustion and sleep.