Like all drug addiction, using heroin more often then not comes into a user’s life, gives a huge euphoria rush that the person has never felt before, and the user goes chasing. After the effects have warn off, whether it is an hour, a day, a week, or more, the user who felt that first burst of happiness and warm sleepiness often takes heroin again, hoping to get that same flood of goodness that goes to the head and covers his/her head.
The second hit is good. But feels different. It is not as strong as the first time. It feels amazing, but something is lacking. Maybe taking more will help. The person takes more. One hit after another, achieving a high, but it is never the same as the first time.
As time progresses, and the person continues using, he/she may want to stop, knowing that drugs are bad for him/her, seeing what is happening to his/her body, how it is effecting the family, job, etc. He/she may not have any more money to buy a heroin, so he/she begins begging money from friends and family, maybe stealing, committing crimes, or selling one’s body for money. When this happens, the person knows he/she is an addict and has a hard time stopping taking heroin.
The user knows heroin addiction is not good for him/herself, family, friends, community, but he/she can’t stop. His/her body is craving it and he/she feels powerless to control his/her cravings and stop. Family and friends often can’t handle so much hurt, betrayal, and crossed boundaries. They get mad because they believe the addict doesn’t have enough self-control and will power to stop.
This is a typical process of how a person becomes an addict. Maybe this is your story. If you are a heroin addict, you can fill in the blanks about who you were hanging around that also did drugs, your dealer, your personal history about family and life experiences that may have driven you to use heroin. The rush of the drug gives you an ability to escape pain and hurt in your life, to forget it even if just for a couple of moments.
If you are a family member or friend of a heroin addict, you can fill in the blanks about the different times you have been lied to, stolen from, when you have been worried sick, fought with your loved one, and cried and prayed so hard that they would stop using heroin. You may also be very mad at the person for having the inability to stop. If only he/she had enough strength and focus to quit.
The story above may sound familiar. Here are some other signs and symptoms of heroin addiction:
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Using drugs under dangerous conditions or taking risks while high
- Driving while high, using dirty needles, having unprotected sex
- Doing illegal activities to get drugs or while on drugs.
- Drug use is causing problems in your relationships or leads you to develop unhealthy relationships.
- Built a tolerance for the drug.
- You need more and more of the drug to reach a satisfying high.
- Take drugs to avoid or relieve withdrawal symptoms.
- Lost control over drug use.
- You cannot stop taking the drug, even if you want to.
- You life revolves around drug use.
- Always looking for the next opportunity to get high.
- Continue to use drugs, even though you know it will hurt and kill you.
One major and notorious sign of a heroin addict is his/her ‘track marks’. Track marks are areas where skin and blood vessels have been damaged by repeated injection of heroin. Not matter the size of the needle or where the heroin is injected, heroin will damage the skin and veins.2
Extensive and/or extended use will lead to the veins collapsing, which means that they are unable to be used because the vein is swollen. Sometimes, if not injected for a significant period of time, they will repair. However, in many cases, heroin addicts use a vein until it is beyond repair. This can lead to infection.
When dealing with your addiction or the addiction of your loved one, it is important to continually remind yourself:
Addiction is a chronic disease. Addiction rehabilitation and recovery is a multi-layered process that is both physical and psychological, medical and mental, individual and communal, working on past, present, and future.
1) “Signs and symptoms of drug abuse and drug addiction.” Helpguide.org. Date downloaded: July 16, 2010.
2) “Signs of Heroin Addiction.” Myaddiction.com. Date downloaded: July 16, 2010.