Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

Written by Robert Castan

Editor: Editorial Team

Medically Reviewer: Editorial Team

Last updated: March 19, 2022


Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

It can be difficult to tell if someone you care for is using and suffering from the effects of heroin as the symptoms of heroin addiction can be hidden quite well. It should also be noted that the experiences that users have while using heroin on a regular basis can differ from person to person as well.

What is Heroin?

Heroin was synthesized by Felix Hoffmann, a German chemist, in 1897, and it was commercialized by Bayer, a drug company that is currently headquartered in Leverkusen, Germany. It was intended to be and promoted as a safe replacement for morphine and not addictive. However, this quickly proved not to be the case as many patients would continue using it long after the pain that had been treated had dissipated. It was also noted that tolerance to it quickly developed and withdrawal symptoms were severe.



SpringBoard Recovery has helped hundreds of people to get off of heroin & get their lives back on track.

How Does Heroin Work?

Once heroin reaches the brain, this strong sedative is converted into morphine and binds with the opioid receptors found there. Intense feelings of relaxation and euphoria result. In fact, users, especially new ones, generally report that nothing else that occurs in their lives ever creates the feeling that heroin does. However, this soon degenerates into needing to use heroin simply to feel normal and avoid the painful withdrawal symptoms.

One of the long-term effects of heroin use is the reduction of dopamine production, the ability to experience pleasure from life’s happenings such as falling in love, success at work and eating a quality meal. Dopamine is the brain’s way of saying, “That was the right thing to do. Do that again next time.” However, when a drug such as heroin causes this, the brain is still saying that but really shouldn’t be. Other effects of long-term use include heart and lung damage, kidney failure and the inability to fully think things through.

Thanks to how addictive it is, it is easy to see why nearly a million Americans used heroin in the year prior to a study in 2016 with 175,000 of those using it for the first time during that 12-month span, a figure that was nearly double what it was in 2006.

Continued after infographic:

Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Addiction

Common Signs and Symptoms

One of the most common signs of heroin addiction is discovering remnants of the substance or things that were used to insert it into the body. Heroin itself can range in color from off-white to nearly black and be powdery, crumbly or sticky. Users often use and sometimes leave discoverable things such as syringes, lighters, burned spoons and rubber tubing. Also be on the lookout for unexplainable missing shoelaces. Both of the last two examples can be used to help tie off injection sites.

Physical symptoms of heroin addiction can include constricted pupils, flushed skin, skin infections, vomiting, slurred speech, needle marks, slowed breathing and the user fading in and out of sleep. Another one to look out for is constipation and the search for laxatives to solve that issue. Also, eating and drinking may not be done as much as should be as many heroin users place securing and using that drug higher than life-supporting activities. The same can be said for basic hygiene. As expected, given what heroin had been originally designed to do, suppression of pain will be experienced by users as well. Mentally, the ability to make decisions and practice self-control decreases, and memory loss tends to occur too.

A number of behavioral signs can also indicate the possibility of heroin abuse. Lying or otherwise being deceptive is a common one and especially noticeable if the individual used to be much more honest and upfront than is the case now. A sense of apathy and loss of motivation and interest in hobbies and activities as compared to before are other signs as is withdrawing from family and friends.

Getting Help for Heroin Addiction

We know how difficult it can be to ask for help and to actively take advantage of that assistance as many users fear the pain, sickness, anxiety and depressed state that generally accompany the withdrawal process. However, we also know that this needs to be done in order to experience the positive things that follow and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Also take note that going through the detox process in a professional setting is very strongly recommended as doing something like that on your own can prove to be exceedingly dangerous, even deadly. This is because the detox process is an especially complex and delicate one, both physical and mentally.

It’s time to turn the focus from this destructive but highly addictive drug in a more positive direction. If you or a loved one is suffering from heroin use, we can help. Contact SpringBoard Recovery for more information.


Author: Robert Castan
April 11, 2019

Robert Castan is a member of the Executive Leadership Team at SpringBoard Recovery. Robert started his professional career as a house manager and has become an industry leader and trusted voice in the treatment world. He brings extensive knowledge of organizational growth, industry-leading outcomes, and comprehensive marketing to SpringBoard Recovery. Robert has been walking his own path of recovery for over 10 years. This path has truly driven his ambition to help make treatment available to others who are struggling with addiction. Robert finds great joy in traveling and keeping physically active, with an emphasis on biking. Robert resides in Arizona with his husband and two four-legged children.   The U.S. Alcohol Crisis, Still Deadlier Than the Opioid Epidemic   Zombies and Other Future Threats to the Health of American Youth Dire Mental Health: A Catalyst for Post-Pandemic Drug Addiction The Benefits of Rehab Center Staff Working Their Own Recovery Opinion: The Opioid Crisis + COVID-19 = The Perfect Storm Robert Castan on Successful Addiction Treatment and Entrepreneurship Castan: The road less traveled of addiction & recovery in Scottsdale Opioids & COVID Driving Phoenix’s Rising Fatal Drug Overdoses Opinion: The Opioid Crisis + COVID-19 = The Perfect Storm Successful Addiction Treatment Programs & Entrepreneurship

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