Signs of Heroin Abuse

The pleasurable rush that comes from heroin, which is followed by a sense of drowsiness or extreme relaxation, is a temptation that can attract substance abusers time and again.

People who abuse heroin are often unable to stop even when its use interferes with important aspects of their life, including their jobs, personal relationships, and even their health. The repeated abuse of the drug can result in addiction as greater doses are needed to create the highly desired effect.

Even people who have previously sought treatment may find themselves slipping back into old habits of abuse. Whether you fear someone has relapsed or has newly started using the drug, True Recovery and our staff of highly trained doctors, therapists, and counselors can help.

For those who are not certain whether someone is using heroin, learning to recognize the signs of heroin use is crucial.

When looking for the signs and symptoms of heroin abuse, there are a few things to keep in mind. Some of the signs of a heroin user are more obvious than others, while some symptoms may indicate issues other than drug abuse.

Identifying the signs of someone on heroin is only the first step and should be followed by careful discussion and the help of professionals.

The Presence of Paraphernalia

People who abuse heroin may do so by injecting, snorting, or smoking it. To do that, they must use certain paraphernalia that can give them away.

Objects that are potential signs of heroin use include syringes, pipes made of glass or metal, dirty silver spoons and aluminum foil or wrappers with burn marks, and tied balloons or plastic bags that contain the remnants of a white powdery substance.

Missing shoelaces or abandoned belts or rubber tubing may also be left behind with suspected drug paraphernalia. These specific items are frequently used to make veins stand out for injections.

Basic Signs

A person who is on heroin will display a combination of signs and symptoms. These symptoms, however, are also commonly associated with a variety of other problems, drug-related or otherwise.

For that reason, they alone should not be seen as an absolute sign that someone is using heroin.

Basic signs of heroin use include:

  • Disorientation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Itchy skin
  • Constricted pupils
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea

Physical Appearance

Some of the most obvious signs of someone on heroin are associated with changes in appearance. Significant changes to one’s physical appearance become more apparent as one’s abuse becomes increasingly chronic.

Weight loss is one of the more obvious of theses signs. People who inject heroin may have needle marks on their arms and legs, and a needle injection site may frequently become infected.

One may tend to have visible cuts, scabs, and bruises. Flushed skin and unexplained runny noses are also common signs. In some cases, women who use heroin may experience amenorrhea, or the absence of their period.


Changes in one’s behavior or personality are often as obvious and alarming as physical changes.

These signs include suspicious and deceptive behavior such as lying, stealing, and avoiding eye contact. Loss of interest and motivation are symptoms that may appear as withdrawing from friends, ignoring favorite activities and hobbies, or a drastic decrease in one’s work or school performance.

Users may start blaming others for drug-related problems, become hostile, or develop low self-esteem. A person on heroin may have slurred or incoherent speech, or they may begin to cover their arms and legs with long pants or sleeves even in warm weather.

Negative changes in personal hygiene are also signs of potential heroin use, as regular bathing, hair care, oral hygiene, and other grooming standards decrease. Other symptoms of heroin abuse include sleeping more often, scratching one’s skin, and failure to eat.

Recognizing that a loved one or friend exhibits the signs of a heroin user can open the door to a dialogue about drug abuse and the need for help.

At True Recovery, substance abusers can receive high-quality, customized addiction counseling in our alternative rehab program.

Call today at (866) 399-6528 to speak with an admissions counselor or fill out our contact form to see how True Recovery can help.