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Article Summary

5 Ways to Tell When Someone is Using Heroin

If you're concerned that a loved one is abusing heroin you'll naturally be deeply concerned for their health and welfare. Heroin is one of the most dangerous and destructive drugs in existence, and long term use leaves the user at risk of fatal overdose, HIV infection, various other serious health problems and the social, financial and legal fallout of drug addiction.

But how can you tell when someone is using heroin? If you've never been exposed to street drugs before you may be ill equipped to recognize the warning signs in another. So, if you're concerned that someone you know may be using heroin you should watch out for these warning signs. The earlier addiction is recognized and addressed the better the chances are that the addict will be able to pull themselves back from the brink and return to good health.

Drug Paraphernalia

Heroin can be smoked or injected directly into the veins, but whichever method is used the addict needs the right tools. Heroin paraphernalia can include needles and syringes, plastic baggies, scales and coffee grinders among other things. You should also be on the lookout for the residue left over from drug use. Fine powders may be present, or burnt, dark residue from smoking.

Behavioral Changes

While this isn't limited to heroin alone, drug use can lead to sudden and unexpected changes in behavior and mood. Formerly outgoing people can become sullen, depressed and secretive about their activities or private space.

In young people these changes can easily by confused with the hormonal changes that come with adolescence. Sudden changes in behavior might be innocent, but when coupled with other warning signs they should be taken seriously.

Sparse Furniture and Missing Possessions

If you live in the same house as a suspected heroin abuser you should pay close attention to cash, credit cards and valuable possessions. As heroin users fall deeper into their habit and develop a tolerance to the drug they need to use more to satisfy their cravings, and eventually many users will reach the point at which they can no longer afford to fund their habit.

Many addicts supplement their income by turning to petty crime, and in many cases this begins at home. Cash and cards may be stolen, and small items that may otherwise not be missed may begin to vanish as the addict pawns them off for quick funds.

If the user lives in their own home you may notice that items of furniture begin to vanish as they are sold off to fund a habit.

New Friends Appear and Old Friends Vanish

Heroin use eventually overwhelms the life of the user, and in time they find they are no longer able to keep up friendships with their usual peer group (especially when the group does not engage in drug use).

To replace these friends you may see questionable new acquaintances appear on the scene. Stereotypes aren't always helpful, but these friends may look as if they're involved in the drug scene. At a certain point in the life of a heroin addict most take on the unmistakable appearance of a junkie, and it isn't usually difficult to identify long-term drug users.

Physical Effects

Heroin users who inject their drug must do so into a vein, and the easiest veins for beginners to use are the ones that run along the arms. Occasional drug use may not produce pronounced physical effects, but long term regular injections leave addicts with track marks: small, raised marks that run along the length of the vein at the injection sites.

Addicts who try to conceal their drug use may use veins that are easier to hide from view, such as those between the toes, so track marks may not be visible on all addicts.

What to Do Next

If you can identify one or more of these warning signs in your loved one there's a chance they may be using heroin. What you do with the information is up to you, but it's important that the addict knows that they have your love and support. They may be ready to make a change, and you may offer them the chance to turn their life around and join a rehab program.

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