Some signs and symptoms of heroin addiction are listed below, although every person is different and no one shows all of these specific signs:
- Slurred speech
- Constricted pupils
- Lessened perception of pain
- Lack of coordination
- Not noticing or paying attention to people and things around them
- Struggling with memory and attention
- Agitation, depression, or confusion
- Sedation or drowsiness
- Damage to the nasal cavity (if snorting heroin)
- Needle marks from injecting the drug
Heroin is an opioid, which is a narcotic painkiller. This class of drugs includes heroin, morphine, methadone, codeine, oxycodone, and others. The above symptoms may also apply to individuals who abuse or are addicted to related narcotics.
In addition to the specific signs of heroin use and addiction, there are symptoms and behaviors associated with drug addiction in general. These could indicate addiction to heroin or another substance:
- Feeling a need to use the drug every day or multiple times a day
- Eventually needing more of the substance to achieve the desired result
- Taking more of the drug than you originally intended, and for a longer period of time
- Doing things to make sure that you have a constant supply of the substance
- Being unable to think about anything other than the drug
- Trying to quit taking the drug, but failing
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit taking the substance
- Even though you know that the drug is harming your physical or mental health and that it is causing problems in your life, you keep taking the substance.
- The drug takes over your life, with the bulk of your time involving getting, using, or recovering from using it.
- Committing property crimes or other activities you would not otherwise do to get the drug.
- Engaging in risky behavior, like driving while under the influence of the substance.
- Falling behind at work and other obligations because of the drug.
- Fading away from social or other activities.
- Spending money that you cannot afford on a drug.
How Heroin Addiction Can Damage Your Body
We have covered the signs of heroin use and addiction and indicators of drug use and dependence. The effects of heroin do not stop there. Heroin can wreak havoc on organs throughout your body.
Heroin and the Brain
- Soon after a person starts abusing heroin on a regular basis, he or she begins to experience brain disintegration. Brain scans of people in their twenties who are chronic heroin abusers can look like elderly Alzheimer’s patients.
- When a person is impaired by heroin, he or she is more likely than usual to fall and sustain a head injury with brain damage. Imaging studies of heroin addicts often show old traumatic injuries to the brain.
- When a person survives a heroin overdose, he or she can sustain brain damage from a lack of oxygen to the brain during the episode. This is referred to as an anoxic brain injury. Even brief periods of oxygen deprivation from opiate overdoses can cause cognitive decline.
- Heroin can cause the brain to deteriorate into a spongy state. This condition can cause spastic attacks, overall weakness, and a permanent hand tremor.
How Heroin Abuse Hurts the Kidneys
Heroin addiction often co-exists with high protein levels in the urine, which can cause kidney failure. Medical experts theorize that viral or bacterial contaminants in the heroin or toxins in the substances people use to dilute the drug cause the kidney damage. Some heroin addicts also suffer from hepatitis C or HIV, which can affect the kidneys as well.
If a person survives a heroin overdose but falls into a comatose state, he or she can experience rhabdomyolysis. This condition happens when the muscles break down because the body is not moving. The breakdown of the muscles creates a chemical that destroys the kidneys. Patients usually require dialysis or a kidney transplant.
The Intestines and Heroin
Heroin and other opiates slow down the activity of the muscles in the intestines. As a result, heroin users suffer from chronic constipation. The condition can be so severe that the addict experiences rupture or other damage that requires surgical repair.
Other Harm from Heroin
Abusing heroin can lead to depression and a negative body image, which can lead to increased heroin use in a vicious cycle that can be hard to break.
Risk Factors for Heroin Addiction
There is no single factor that contributes to a person’s risk of becoming addicted to heroin, but these items are known risk factors:
- Genetic disposition. The genetic component accounts for around 40 to 60 percent of a person’s risk of addiction.
- Mental health. People with mental disorders are more likely to become addicted to heroin than those who lack them.
- Familiarity. People whose friends, parents, or older family members use drugs, abuse alcohol, or commit crimes can have a higher risk of future drug problems.
- Social skills. People who have poor social skills or who struggle in school are more at risk than people who do not.
We Can Help
Signs and symptoms of heroin addiction can be scary and serious. Dealing with legal issues while treating addiction can be incredibly hard alone. If you want hands-on personal attention in your legal matter, the team at Pintas & Mullins may be able to help. Call us today at 888-808-5977 to get started.