Heroin abuse is associated with serious health conditions, including fatal overdose, spontaneous abortion, collapsed veins, and, particularly in users who inject the drug, infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. Heroin is an addictive, illegal drug made from the opium poppy, Papaver Somniferum. Heroin is processed from morphine. Morphine is a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seedpod of the Asian poppy plant.
Heroin usually appears as a white or brown powder that is smoked or inhaled in powder form or it can be mixed with water, heated, then injected. When heroin is pure, it's a white powder but usually contains other substances like glucose, talcum powder or even brick dust. Impure heroin on the other hand is a brown powder and contains caffeine. Heroin crosses through the blood brain barrier 100 times faster than morphine because it is highly soluble in lipids. Heroin is also called smack, horse, crank, jive, shag, dope, H, skag, junk and Mexican black tar.
The short term effects of heroin abuse usually appear immediately after a single dose, and disappear within a few minutes or hours. Heroin usually makes the user feel a surge of euphoria, followed by a warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth and heavy extremities. After the initial euphoria, the user goes "on the nod," an alternately wakeful and drowsy state. Mental functioning becomes clouded due to the depression of the central nervous system. Those with chronic heroin abuse problems may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, cellulitis, and liver disease. Pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia, may result from the poor health condition of the abuser, as well as from heroin’s depressing effects on respiration.
If looking for signs of heroin abuse, you may look for the small packets of paper that it comes wrapped in. As mentioned above, this drug is usually injected, smoked or sniffed. Heroin addicts normally will choose this method of ingestion because they get the quickest rush, (7-8 seconds) while if they inject into a muscle they have to wait (5-8 minutes).
Additional signs of heroin abuse include drug using paraphernalia. You may see hypodermic needles, cotton balls for straining the drug or water, spoons and bottle caps that the user uses for cooking the heroin into a liquid form. While smoking and snorting heroin doesn't give the user that immediate rush, all three forms of heroin abuse are addictive. The paraphernalia you might find if the user is snorting or smoking include razor blades, rolled dollar bills, pipes and straws.
While you may not find the physical evidence of the heroin abuse, you may need to be aware of common physiological signs that usually exist too. The user may complain of dry mouth and have a droopy look about them. They may become disoriented and have bouts of wakefulness followed by drowsy periods. A runny nose, constricted pupils and episodes of nausea all also often follow the usage of heroin.
Those with heroin abuse problems may clean up their evidence and use in private so as not to alert anyone of their illegal habit. But, there are often other signs that family and friends may notice that indicate there is a drug addiction problem going on. Look for a messy appearance and hygiene issues. You may also notice missing cash and valuables or a constant request to borrow money. The drug abuser may have little or no motivation and have no interest in former friends. Lying, deception and anger towards others are also common in people with heroin abuse problems. However, keep in mind, many of these signs could also be typical of high school aged behaviors and should not singularly be taken as a sign of abuse and addiction.
Because heroin is the type of drug that easily elevates an user’s tolerance, it takes progressively more heroin to achieve the high that was once achieved with only a small amount of it. That's why it's so important to identify the signs of heroin abuse early, before the physical breakdown occurs from the massive amounts of the drug needed for an addict to get their rush.