signs of heroin addiction wolf creek recovery
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Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. —Carl Bard

Millions of people experience substance use disorders each year, and one of the most powerful substances out there is heroin. But no matter how deep your relationship with heroin is, help is always available.

Heroin has remained a significant problem in Arizona despite efforts to seize the substance at the border. One positive change has been naloxone, a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose. In 2024 alone, naloxone was administered 70 percent of the time for suspected opioid overdoses. However, the only way to avoid the negative effects of heroin overdose is to quit using the substance.

If you know someone who needs help, Wolf Creek Recovery is prepared to be your support system. Our staff is in recovery, so we can relate to what you and your loved one are going through. Not only do our clients spend time in counseling and therapy, but they also enjoy healthy outdoor activities like pickleball, basketball, disc golf, and more. We’re not just about getting healthy—we’re about building a whole new life that doesn’t involve substances!

Below is more information about the signs of heroin addiction, the dangers to be aware of, and how to support a loved one in need.

Signs of Heroin Addiction (Heroin Use Disorder)

People often wait to fully acknowledge heroin use disorder in their loved ones because they’re unsure of what to look for, they aren’t ready to accept the situation, or they don’t know how to address the problem. However, by recognizing the signs of heroin use disorder early on, you can intervene and get your loved one the support they need.

Physical Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

Heroin has powerful effects on the body, leading to a wide range of physical symptoms. Here are some of the most common:

  • Changes in appearance, such as weight loss and poor hygiene
  • Skin changes like pale skin and scabs and sores from itching
  • Track marks and injection sites, including needle marks on arms, legs, and other areas of the body
  • Respiratory symptoms, such as shallow breathing and respiratory depression
  • Chronic, persistent cough due to respiratory problems
  • Gastrointestinal issues like nausea, vomiting, and constipation
  • Constricted pupils
  • Extreme lethargy and nodding off, drifting in and out of consciousness
  • Physical weakness and poor coordination
  • Increased tolerance and dependence, with heroin withdrawal symptoms occurring when heroin is reduced or stopped

Health Consequences of Using Heroin

As you can see, it’s difficult to lead a healthy life when heroin is in the picture. This substance has far-reaching effects that can spill over into all aspects of your life. For instance, constant fatigue and drowsiness can cause you to miss out on important life events, such as enjoying your child’s soccer game or soaking up a day at the beach. It can also damage most systems in the body, including the cardiovascular, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems. Heroin use can also cause liver and kidney disease, mental health conditions, immune system suppression, and sexual dysfunction.

Psychological Signs of Heroin Use Disorder

Heroin affects the mind just as much as the body. Some of the most common psychological effects of heroin are:

  • Intense cravings, to the point of having obsessive thoughts about the substance
  • Emotional instability and mood swings, such as euphoria to dysphoria
  • Mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety
  • Paranoia and hallucinations
  • Cognitive decline, including memory problems, poor concentration, and impaired judgment
  • Behavioral changes, such as neglecting responsibilities, social withdrawal, and secretive behavior
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Emotional numbness, like inability to feel pleasure
  • Sleep disturbances

signs of heroin addiction heroin use disorder

Risk Factors of Heroin Misuse

While anyone can develop a heroin use disorder, certain risk factors make it more likely for someone to misuse the substance. Research suggests that about half of a person’s susceptibility to substance use disorders is due to genetic factors. If you have a family history of substance use, you are more likely to develop a heroin use disorder due to biological factors that influence how the brain responds to substances. Other risk factors include growing up in an environment where heroin use is normalized, easy access to heroin, peer pressure to use heroin, a history of trauma, co-occurring mental health disorders, and personality traits like impulsivity and low self-esteem.

Another risk factor is using opioid pain medications to treat chronic pain. Individuals prescribed these medications are at risk for transitioning to heroin misuse, especially if they develop a dependency on prescription opioids. This is not to say that people can’t use these medications safely and responsibly, but there is a definite link between using opioids for pain management and eventually transitioning to cheaper alternatives like heroin.

It is important to remember that none of these risk factors guarantee someone will develop a heroin use disorder. Being aware of them can help someone with these risk factors avoid developing the condition.

The Dangers of Heroin

Heroin use poses dangers to both people who consume the substance and society at large. Aside from the physical and psychological effects that impact individuals, there are also social and economic consequences, including increased criminal activity, legal costs, healthcare costs, strains on relationships, homelessness, and decreased safety for residents.

Recognizing Heroin Use in Teenagers

Early recognition and intervention are crucial for helping young individuals who may be experiencing the start of heroin use disorder. Some of the key signs to look for are changes in appearance, extreme fatigue and drowsiness, secrecy, isolation, changes in social circles, mood swings, and money problems. While some of these signs can be attributed to normal teenage behavior, they are typically accompanied by other symptoms, such as a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities. For example, it may not be unusual for your teenage daughter to experience mood swings, but if you notice that she is also hanging around different friends and no longer wants to play soccer, her favorite sport, there may be reason for concern.

Heroin and Drug Paraphernalia

Recognizing heroin use in someone is made easier when you can identify drug paraphernalia. Sometimes, this can slip past people who are unfamiliar with the substance, so education is crucial. Here are common examples of drug paraphernalia associated with heroin use:

  • Needles and syringes
  • Glass or metal pipes
  • Spoons and bottle caps
  • Rubber tourniquets, belts, and shoelaces
  • Snorting tools like straws, rolled-up paper, or dollar bills
  • Aluminum foil and gum wrappers
  • Small plastic bags and balloons for transporting heroin
  • Cotton balls or cigarette filters to filter heroin before it’s drawn into the syringe

psychological signs of heroin use disorder

What Should I Do if Someone I Know Needs Help in Prescott, AZ?

Knowing that someone is using heroin is a difficult position to be in. You’re worried about their health but you don’t want to strain your relationship by calling them out on something they may deny. This is why educating yourself is key, as this can help you approach the matter in the most constructive way possible. Take some time to learn about heroin use disorder, the symptoms of the condition, and the different ways it affects people.

When you do approach someone, choose the right time and come from a place of genuine concern, not judgment. For example, you can say, “I’m really worried about you,” rather than, “You need to stop using heroin.” Communicate effectively by listening to the person, offering support, and setting boundaries. Your first job is to protect yourself, so make it clear what you are and are not comfortable with.

Discuss the benefits of seeking a professional heroin addiction treatment program, counseling, and support groups. If the person is resistant, you may need to stage an intervention. Ultimately, you cannot control what the person does and does not do, but you can make every effort to get them help. But remember, the choice to stop heroin is theirs only. In the meantime, be patient, set clear boundaries, and take care of yourself. Also, know the signs of a potential heroin overdose and keep naloxone on hand.

When you need support for a heroin use disorder, contact Wolf Creek Recovery. Our team is here for you and your family, as we offer a range of therapies to support a full recovery. In addition to behavioral therapies and medication, our clients get to spend time in the sun, enjoying activities like pickleball, yoga, meditation, basketball, and disc golf. We show our clients that recovery can be fun! Contact us today at 833-732-8202 and build a life you love! 

FAQs About Heroin Use Disorder

What are the physical signs of heroin use disorder? 

The physical signs of a heroin use disorder include changes in appearance, track marks, respiratory symptoms, constricted pupils, and extreme lethargy.

What are the psychological signs of heroin use disorder?

The psychological signs of heroin use include mood swings, intense cravings, emotional instability, loss of interest in previously enjoyed hobbies, and sleep disturbances.

What are the risk factors for heroin misuse? 

While anyone can start using heroin, certain risk factors can make people more vulnerable, such as a family history of heroin use, growing up in an environment where heroin use is normalized, and having easy access to heroin.

How do I talk to my loved one about their heroin use?

Before talking to a loved one about their heroin use, educate yourself on substance use disorders so that you can approach the conversation with care and empathy. Choose the right time and place, be supportive, listen to them, and encourage professional help, but don’t forget to set clear boundaries.