When Is it VITAL to Stop Trusting Your Child?
When You See These Signs of Heroin Use

The young woman was painfully thin, soaking in a warm bathtub to relieve the aches of heroin withdrawal. She was pasty white and had sores on her face. She told the story of her mother making an unexpected visit to the college she’d been attending. As soon as her mother arrived, she knew her daughter was using heroin and immediately brought her to a rehab to recover her sobriety. “I don’t know how my mother knew I was on heroin,” the young woman said. It was obvious to everyone but this young woman.

Mother concerned about and comforting troubled teen daughter.

This mother may not have realized how smart she was. She realized that the stories she was hearing from her daughter didn’t add up. She knew she had to reject whatever explanations and excuses she heard from her daughter and go get the facts for herself. She very possibly saved her daughter’s life by showing up unannounced.

Every year, tens of thousands of parents lose a loved one to drug overdoses. Sometimes it happens even though parents did everything they could think of to save their loved one’s life.

Number of Overdoses Still Increasing

The number of people dying from drug overdoses has not even topped out yet. In December 2016, the New York Times published the news that for the first time ever, New York City was expecting to see more than 1,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017 (*).

Nationally, there were 47,055 overdose deaths in 2014 but 52,404 in 2015. And, of course, this is after years of steady increase. Opioids like heroin or powerful painkillers account for the majority of these deaths. Currently, more than two million people are misusing prescription painkillers and nearly 600,000 are using heroin. With strong synthetic painkillers being made into counterfeit pills or added to bags of heroin, it’s easier than ever to suffer a fatal overdose.

When to Make the Decision to Stop Trusting Your Child (of Any Age)

Most parents try their best to trust their children as they launch into their own independent lives. After all, parents have spent the last fifteen to twenty years instilling the best values they could. But there is a time when you may have to stop believing what you are told and start only being certain of facts you can verify. That time comes when someone you love manifests clear signs of drug use but you are repeatedly told that “Everything is fine, mom, I’m great, don’t worry.”

What should you be watching for to determine drug use, especially the highly dangerous and unpredictable use of heroin? Here’s some of the primary signs:

While the person is high, they will be itchy and nauseated.

  • They may vomit or complain of constipation.
  • Their skin may look bad or they may suffer from various infections including pneumonia.
  • They may get sick repeatedly as their immunity will be low.
  • They may be drowsy or nod off.
  • Pupils will be tiny and they may have a runny nose and flushed skin.
  • There’s often weight loss because the person does not have an appetite.
  • There may be paraphernalia found, like burnt, bent spoons or spoons may be missing from the kitchen.
  • Of course, needles are a dead giveaway.

Misuse of painkillers results in many of the same signs and symptoms.


The category of stimulants includes cocaine, methamphetamine, prescription amphetamines such as Desoxyn, Ritalin and Adderall, and many synthetic drugs.

Of course, abuse of stimulants has many opposite effects. A stimulant user on a binge will stay up for days and then sleep around the clock. Stimulants kill one’s appetite so there’s normally fast weight loss when these drugs are used daily. Here too, a person’s complexion may look bad.

Mentally, a heavy user of stimulants can become aggressive, panicky, suicidal or paranoid. He may hallucinate. Pupils are dilated.

Behavioral Changes

It’s particularly important to recognize the behavioral signs that accompany drug abuse and addiction because your child (of whatever age) is very likely to avoid your company while he is high. Here are some behavioral or life changes to watch for:

  • Grades or job performance declines severely
  • Goals at school or work are abandoned
  • The person has a sudden and urgent need for money, with a different excuse every time
  • They are very hard to reach or are distant when they are reached
  • They may be argumentative or pick fights
  • There are many illnesses, accidents or other problems that can’t really be explained away
  • Their relationships crumble and their new friends are all people you don’t know
  • The excuses and stories they tell never really add up
Heroin paraphernalia

When you see these signs and they can’t really be explained in any logical way, you could be looking at drug use or addiction. If you suspect drug use or addiction, there is not a single moment to lose. You would be very wise to either stop by and see them without warning or send someone you trust.

If there’s nothing seriously wrong, if a little on-site conversation makes the reason for any problems clear, then all you have done is protect the precious life of someone you love. And made it very clear how much you care.

On the other hand, if you see that person has lost weight and looks unhealthy, if his possessions are trashed, dirty or simply missing, you know that your loved one needs support and help. If we can help you understand the problem of addiction and how lasting recovery can be accomplished, call us at 1-800-775-8750 immediately. We’ve been helping families deal with this deadly serious problem for more than 50 years. We can help you, too. 


https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/12/28/nyregion/new-york-city-overdose-data.html?_r=5 (*) Requires a New York Times logon that can be gotten for free.




Karen Hadley

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.