Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Use

 Signs of heroin abuse include highly contracted pupils called “pinned eyes”, cold or flu-like symptoms, body aches, cold sweats, mood changes, confusion, depression, and decreased appetite. Users will seem ill and will often have darkened skin around the eyes.  People who struggle with heroin addiction appear very pale, and look gaunt or skeletal. If the user is injecting the heroin, he/she will also have needle marks which can be found anywhere on the body.

After taking the drug, the person will have a highly pleasurable sensation of warmth and relaxation (a rush). The rush occurs immediately if the heroin is injected, but can take as long as 15 minutes if smoked or snorted. The person then feels sleepy and sluggish.  Heart rate declines dramatically, and the person can appear to lose the ability to communicate for hours. Users might also experience nausea and vomiting, although these symptoms decline with repeated use.

Chronic users develop tolerance which means that they have to take more and more heroin to achieve the same intensity of effect. They also develop physical dependence which, if they reduce or stop taking heroin abruptly, can cause significant withdrawal symptoms such as severe craving for heroin, restlessness, insomnia, pain in muscles and bones, diarrhea and vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps and kicking movements.

Other symptoms include chronic constipation, bacterial infections, sclerosis, liver and kidney diseases, and lung problems.  There is also increased risk of contracting HIV or Hepatitis, especially when sharing needles or fluids.

What is heroin?

Heroin is an opiate, and it is highly addictive. It is harvested from the flower pod of the poppy plant as a sticky, white substance, and then dried. Most often, pure dried heroin is combined, or cut, with an additive like sugar or powdered milk. It is sold as a powder, ranging in color from white to brown.  The darker color comes from the contaminations left as a result of the processing. Dark heroin is often called “black tar heroin” because is it less pure.

Upon entering the brain, heroin is converted back into morphine which acts as a depressant (“downer”) that reduces pain and slows the automatic vital processes such as arousal, respiration and blood pressure.

In case of overdose, heroin suppresses the breathing causing hypoxia (decreased level of oxygen in the brain), permanent brain damage, coma and in some cases death.

How is heroin used?

A person can inject heroin into a vein (“mainlining”) or a muscle after it has been dissolved into a liquid; and it can be injected with other substances. Heroin can also be snorted, or smoked.

Other Names

Smack, Junk, Skunk, H, Big H, Salt, Brown sugar, Diesel, Mexican black tar, Horse, Dope, Skag

So, how do you know if your teen’s behavior is normal or troublesome? Is it Drugs or is it Just Teenage Angst?