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Signs, Symptoms & Side Effects of Heroin Abuse

Last Updated: January 17, 2023

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One of the biggest drugs in the opioid epidemic that is affecting people all over the country and the state of Ohio is heroin. It can be difficult for people who have not struggled with heroin addiction to fully comprehend the intensity of the addiction.

Many people falsely believe that heroin addiction or addiction to other substances can be overcome simply by having a strong will. That is far from the case. Addiction to heroin or any other substance is a disease that needs to be treated.

How can you tell if someone you love is using heroin? Here we will take a look at some of the side effects, symptoms and signs of heroin addiction and abuse.

Heroin Side Effects

When a person uses heroin, their body converts it to morphine, and then it binds to the opioid receptors located in the brain. This creates a sense of euphoria or a high. Some other short-term side effects that also accompany use of this drug include slowed breathing and heart rate, flushing of the skin, dry mouth and clouded mental function. Other side effects that can come with using heroin include nausea, vomiting, itchiness and a feeling of heaviness in the legs and arms.

All opioids generally work in a similar fashion, slowing activity that occurs in the brain and central nervous system, blocking pain and flooding the brain with feel-good chemicals.

Heroin Addiction Signs

It can be important for you to know the signs of heroin use if you suspect that someone you love may be using heroin. Along with the above listed side effects, some signs of heroin use you need to look out for are:

  • Periods of intense euphoria immediately followed by tiredness and fatigue
  • Disorientation
  • Covering extremities with long sleeves or pants in warm weather to hide evidence of intravenous drug use
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Slurred speech
  • Sores or scabs on the skin
  • Dishonest or deceitful behavior
  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Confusion
  • Excessive sleeping or nodding off

Long-Term Heroin Side Effects

Above, we talked mainly about the short-term side effects that come with heroin use, but what are the long-term side effects of prolonged heroin use?

Long-term users of heroin have developed a tolerance. This means that the drug may not even get them high anymore, but they continue to use it because they have become psychologically and physically addicted. The person may begin to take increased doses of the drug because they feel they can no longer function without it.

A person who is addicted to heroin will not typically be able to maintain a job, healthy relationships, family duties or school work. They may turn to risky or criminal behaviors as well to support their habit.

Some other long-term side effects of heroin use can include collapsed veins, abscesses, infections, constipation and stomach cramps, or liver and kidney disease.

Signs of Heroin Relapse

If you live in Ohio – whether it’s in a big state like Columbus, Cleveland or Cincinnati – and someone you love has stopped using heroin, you may fear that the person will relapse. It’s good to understand the signs of a heroin relapse.

Many of the signs of relapse are going to be similar to the signs of heroin use as described above. Someone who has relapsed may become isolated from family and friends. This person may also begin hanging out with the old crowd – friends who are also drug users – or visiting places they used to frequent when using drugs. Someone who has relapsed may be extremely secretive, trying to hide the evidence of their relapse at every turn. You may also notice physical signs of heroin addiction like unexplained weight loss or dilated pupils.

When a person relapses, they are more likely to overdose because their body’s tolerance to the drug has likely decreased.


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