How do you know the difference between whether a loved one is just moody or is struggling with addiction? If you already suspect a loved one abuses heroin, when do you step in?
These are big asks for someone who is not well familiar with the symptoms and behaviors associated with heroin addiction, Aeden Smith-Ahearn, a recovering heroin addict and clinic director for the Experience Ibogaine Treatment Center in Mexico, tells WebMD Connect to Care.
“It often comes down to chance or luck. There are a lot of variables in play. Some people will spot the problem, others will be oblivious to it,” he says.
Signs Of Possible Heroin Addiction
Heroin is an illegal and highly addictive opioid that can look like white or brown powder, or a sticky black tar.
“Nobody is going to go straight from having a cigarette to heroin the next day,” Smith-Ahearn points out. Still, you should pay extra attention to a loved one who suffers a major blow like a friend’s death or job loss, he says. The same goes if they are hanging out with people you suspect use drugs or are taking prescription opioids that can be a gateway to heroin.
Your suspicions should be aroused to a possible drug problem if you notice these behaviors from a family member or friend, according to the Mayo Clinic:
Work or school issues.The person seems disinterested or is frequently absent and admits to slipping performance.
Disinterest in physical appearance.The person is suddenly disdainful of clothes and grooming.
Behavior changes. They have drastic changes in relationships and may seem secretive about activities and personal space.
Money problems. The person starts hitting you up for loans often.
“Anyone experiencing addiction is going through ups and downs all day long,” says Dr. Kenneth Morford, an addiction medicine specialist with Yale Medicine in New Haven, Conn. “Initially, using was getting them high, but over time they will go through cycles: Feeling sick, sweating, generally restless, distracted – followed by feeling normal. That’s where you can see disruptions in their daily activities.”
And you should be alert for these outward symptoms of heroin abuse, including:
- Slurred speech
- Mood swings
- Scars on arms, toes, fingers or legs
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Problems with attention and memory
- Lack of attention to surrounding people and things
- Problems with coordination
Morford points out that on the mild/moderate/severe spectrum of opioid abuse disorder, it is harder for a concerned person to spot withdrawal symptoms in someone who is early into addiction. However, remember that symptoms that mimic the flu – body temperature fluctuations, sweats, goosebumps, abdominal pains – can point to heroin withdrawal, he says, particularly if the person shows them in the morning after a night without using.
Get Help Now
If you or a loved one is struggling with heroin addiction, don’t wait. WebMD Connect to Care advisors are standing by to help.