10 Signs of Hidden Heroin Addiction

Woman addict - alone

Heroin addiction can be easy to overlook if you are not familiar with the signs. You might notice that something is wrong with your friend or family member, but you could just as easily mistake the problem for a bout of the flu or a bad mood that passes. A heroin addict, as is the case with someone who is addicted to any other type of drug, will typically make excuses to justify his or her behavior and to cover up what is really going on. Very often, the addict will become quite skilled at lying about the situation, and the excuses that the person offers may indeed be very convincing. If you have reason to suspect that a loved one may be using heroin, read through the following list of 10 of the most common signs of heroin addiction. The list does not include every possible indication that a person may be a heroin addict, but it does include several of the most telling signs:

Heroin Addiction Signs

One: Inexplicable weight loss

Heroin addicts often waste away and shed weight until they develop an emaciated appearance. Very often, the drug will cause nausea in a user, and a person taking heroin may experience a loss of appetite.

Two: Wearing long-sleeved attire, even in warm weather

Because heroin is very often used intravenously, by injecting it directly into the veins, users of this drug frequently adopt a habit of wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants at all times of the year, to hide the marks and scarring left on their skin at the injection sites.

Three: Extended periods of sleeping

The poppy flower, from which the opium used to make heroin is derived, carries the scientific name papver somniferum, meaning “the sleep-bringing poppy.” Opium and its derivatives are used, medically and recreationally, for their numbing properties, and heroin users will often slump into periods of extended sleep.

Four: Needles

Any time you find intravenous needles in your loved one’s room, in a bag or elsewhere in the person’s possession you should be alarmed unless there is a legitimate medical reason for having needles. A heroin addict is not likely to leave needles lying around, but you may find them in the trash. Pick up any empty soda cans and give them a shake to notice whether you hear a used syringe rattling around inside.

Five: Changes in behavior

Using heroin–or any other drug–will almost inevitably change a person’s behavior and personality. This is due in part to the fact that the person is experiencing shifts in mood from being high to coming down, partly to the alteration in brain chemistry, and partly to the fact that the person is being secretive and perhaps engaging in activity that he or she would like to keep you from knowing about.

Six: Rollercoastering moods

As mentioned above, drug addicts tend to vacillate between highs and lows. This is especially true in the case of heroin. When a person uses heroin, he or she will normally experience a rush as the drug suddenly reaches the brain, followed by an extended period of euphoria. During the times when he or she is high, the addict will often seem to be in an incredibly good mood. Coming down from heroin, on the other hand, can be enormously uncomfortable, since the symptoms of heroin withdrawal are notoriously painful.

Seven: A Chronic runny nose

A common sign of heroin use is that the person may seem to always have a runny nose. One reason for this is that heroin has a tendency to suppress the immune system, with the result that the body cannot fight off infections as easily and may always be somewhat sick.

Eight: Dry Mouth

Heroin users commonly suffer from dry mouth, also referred to as cottonmouth or xerostomia. Dry mouth is actually a common side effect of many different types of medications, so the fact that heroin, which was originally developed as a pharmaceutical drug and which is still in limited use in the field of medicine, might carry this side effect.

Nine: Abscesses and skin infections

Because heroin users typically inject the drug intravenously, they often develop abscesses or infections at the site of injection. Shooting up daily or even several times a day will inevitably damage the skin tissue, and prolonged heroin use will often leave the skin marred and scarred.

Ten: Spoons with bent handles or burn marks

In converting heroin from a powder into a liquid solution which can be injected, a user will often place the drug in a kitchen spoon, followed by bending the handle and then holding it over a flame such as from a cigarette lighter. In addition to bent and burned spoons, you can also look out for paper towels or cloths with brown smudge marks left from wiping away the burn marks on the spoon.

As mentioned above, these ten things are only a few of the possible signs that a person may be a heroin addict. To learn more about what you should look for and find help in getting your loved one sober visit http://www.narconon.org/drug-abuse/heroin/.


Clinical Review by Claire Pinelli, LADC, CCS, ICAADC, MCAP


Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.