According to DrugAbuse.gov, approximately 1.6 percent of Americans age 12 and over (4.2 million people) have tried heroin. Out of these, experts say 23 percent end up addicted. What was once the scourge of inner city streets and the poor who walk them is now rampant across the country, invading even the richest suburbs and towns. Many people start off addicted to painkillers, and when they can no longer access them, they look elsewhere to get the ‘high’ they are craving. Heroin offers a cheap and readily available solution.
When one thinks of a typical heroin addict, bruised arms that look like pincushions may come to mind. However, this dangerous drug can be smoked or inhaled as well. The outward symptoms that most think would be present could be absent completely. Besides track marks and the infections around them, there are plenty of other ways heroin abuse shows itself in the addict that indicates a serious problem.
Pay Attention to These Signs
In recent months, the prevalence of heroin abuse has made headlines and is now recognized as one of America’s biggest challenges in the war on drugs. Part of the reason for this emerging problem is the high cost of some prescription drugs. Some people who can no longer afforded their expensive legal drugs often turn to the streets where they can obtain the alternatives much cheaper. Heroin is the most common drug of choice in these situations.
If you are concerned that a friend or loved one, or even yourself, might be in danger of developing an addiction to heroin, the following signs are often present:
- Alternating periods of lethargy and wakefulness – This is the ‘nodding off’ that heroin users experience when they are high, and usually comes in waves.
- Nausea and vomiting – Both indicators in many abusers, even those who have built up a tolerance to the drug can still suffer these effects with higher doses.
- Lack of motivation or interest in the future – Heroin addicts often lose the desire to move forward in life, and only worry where they will obtain their next ‘fix’.
- Distancing themselves from friends and family or hanging out with an entirely new crowd. These are typical warning signs of any addiction.
- Memory loss or forgetting important dates – Everyone forgets things now and then, but in addicts this becomes a regular occurrence.
- Slurred speech – Heroin can turn the most articulate and well-spoken person into someone that can barely be understood.
- Unkempt appearance/poor hygiene – Heroin users tend to let their personal hygiene go by the wayside in the throes of addiction, turning loved ones into complete strangers.
- Vacant eyes – Some people say heroin steals the soul of its user, and this is highly apparent when looking into once bright and alert eyes that now only stare into the distance.
- Poor motor skills – Heroin affects the entire body and can make the muscles weak and feel ‘heavy’, which can affect the ability to walk and move around.
- Shallow/labored breathing – Many overdoses happen when the organs shut down due to an inability to process the poison that is in the user’s system. If the person is unconscious, get help immediately.
No one wants to watch a loved one struggle with addiction, especially when the person has a valid need for painkillers. Talk with a physician to find out about legal alternatives for treating chronic pain.
Treatment for Heroin Abuse
More than half a million people in America use heroin each year. The addiction can cause the loss of a job, family, and friends, as well as the addict’s life. Help is available, and the first step is recognizing there is a problem. Do not ignore warning signs of heroin abuse in a loved one; the faster treatment starts, the better. Treatment begins with detoxification and continues with counseling, medical intervention if necessary and ongoing group therapy to help the individual stay off of the drug.