Top 5 Warning Signs – Loved One is Addicted to Heroin

In the past decade, the heroin epidemic has wreaked havoc on American citizens with unprecedented voracity. The death toll amongst heroin users has climbed to the extent that some communities have even been forced to seek out new methods of storing their dead, such as using refrigerated trucks to preserve cadavers for the interim between the deaths themselves and the services. Stories such as these are covered extensively by major news outlets almost constantly, due in large part to the sensationalism associated with such issues. While this can present a positive influence in the overall awareness of the opioid epidemic in our nation, this type of media coverage only serves to memorialize the fallen, and not to treat the still sick and suffering addicts. The people who live in the misery and isolation of active addiction every day, who will undoubtedly fall prey to the same fate without the continued development and application of proper intervention and treatment methods.

Our society seems to be at a crucial juncture regarding this epidemic. It seems our communities can either continue to sweep addiction under the rug and pass it off as a mere moral dilemma, rather than a treatable condition, or we can put forth the effort into spreading awareness of the disease, and the ways in which every citizen can make a difference in treating this scourge. Many are beginning to believe the latter is the better option, because it has been proven in the lives of many that addiction shows no discrimination in those it afflicts. More of our parents, friends, neighbors, and children fall into the clutches of drugs like heroin and fentanyl every day, and if we have any hope of bringing this monstrous issue to a halt, it is paramount that more people learn some of the basic warning signs of addiction. Only once a problem has been identified, can it be resolved. Below are five common warning signs of heroin addiction.

What do I look for to know if my loved one is addicted to heroin?


  • Constricted Pupils- This is one of the first warning signs our interventionists and treatment specialists are trained to identify when dealing with addicts. When under the influence of opiates, the pupils generally shrink to a fraction of their normal size. This is a widely accepted warning sign of opiate abuse in the treatment community, and is very visible, making it one of the easiest signs to detect. One common method of testing this symptom is to place a hand or any other object which will produce shade on the forehead, directly above the eyes. Under normal circumstances, this will cause the pupils to dilate significantly in a natural effort by the optic nerves to take in more light. However, under the influence of opiates, such as heroin, the pupils typically remain shrunken, giving a pinprick-like appearance. It is important to keep in mind that this is not by any means a foolproof method of detecting drug use, and any results should be taken with a grain of salt.
  • Erratic behavior- This is a common tell-tale sign of active addiction. The behavior patterns of a using addict are often unpredictable and illogical, as the main purpose behind most actions are geared towards using. The actions which characterize active addiction can vary greatly from person to person. However, there are certain characteristics common amongst the vast majority of addicts. One of which is a desire for isolation. This symptom can be exhibited by something seemingly benign, such as wanting to be left alone more often than usual, or something more obvious like completely shutting oneself off from the rest of the family or circle of friends entirely. Behaviors such as these are commonly used either as a way to use in relative peace, without the threat of being found out, or as a means for the depression and loneliness involved with addiction to deepen, and therefore advance the seriousness of the disease.
  • Mood swings- This is a symptom known to virtually all addicts. It is caused by a number of factors, including how the highs of different drugs affect cognition and the ability to perceive reality, and the way in which long term use substance use changes the physical structure of the brain. In any case, these mood swings generally make it exceedingly difficult to conversate with addicts on rational terms. One moment, an addict may be in a state of pure bliss, while the next moment brings a tirade of painful and fiery emotion. These mood swings can lead to self harm, violence, and an ever deepening state of depression and negative self thought which strengthens the hold of addiction exponentially faster than the majority of other symptoms. It is crucial for the loved ones of addicts to understand what is happening when these mood swings become apparent, and the proper way to handle them. It can be hugely beneficial to bring to light subjects like substance abuse and treatment at the proper times, and extremely damaging to do so during an emotional downswing.
  • New friends- Is your loved one spending decreasing amounts of time with old friends who seemed to exhibited positive influence, and more time with new, untrustworthy people? This could be a very damning warning sign of addiction. When using drugs becomes commonplace in a person’s life, the need for normalcy in daily life becomes secondary to the need to obtain drugs. Therefore, people who presented positive influences in the past fall to the wayside while new groups of people who make the accessibility of drugs easier than it would be otherwise. It is crucial to keep a line of communication open with your loved one if you begin to notice new groups of people in their lives.
  • Frequent flu-like symptoms- Heroin is infamous for the severity of its withdrawal symptoms. However, since many of the symptoms are shared with those of a flu, it can be difficult to accurately assess a case of heroin withdrawal without previous suspicions of drug use. Withdrawals can last anywhere from days to weeks, depending on the duration and severity of the habit, but usually are experienced in frequent, short episodes due to the half life of the drug being so short. It is common for heroin addicts to use every few hours in order to stave off uncomfortability, and after some time, the time in between uses shrinks greatly. Therefore, when unable to acquire the drug for longer than the normal interval between doses, the body goes into the withdrawal state. At this point, the addict becomes very ill and will generally throw any responsibility, such as work, school, or family events, to the wayside in order to obtain the next dose. For this reason, addicts tend to lack severely in attendance and will often appear sick, or call off because of a short lived flu or cold. It is important to keep this in mind when the suspicion of heroin use comes to mind, because it is very easy to identify over time with the proper knowledge of previous and current behavioral pattern in the suspected addict.


If you suspect a loved one in your life is addicted to heroin, please do not hesitate to call our hotline to speak with one of our highly trained treatment specialists. The call is free, and the few minutes it will take to reach out may save a life. Remember, addiction doesn’t wait. Neither should you.

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