Heroin is a destructive and dangerous drug that acts on the pleasure centre of the central nervous system. Use of the drug very quickly induces an initial feeling of relaxation and euphoria but is then followed by a negative feeling and thoughts. Heroin actually acts as a painkiller as it belongs to the opiate family of drugs. There are a lot of functioning heroin addicts who are able to hide their addiction and the signs and symptoms of it from family and friends. However, once the user becomes more heavily addicted this becomes more difficult to achieve.
As a family member or friend if you suspect that an individual is taking heroin then there are a number of signs to look out for both during and just after the person has taken a dose of the drug. If the individual is complaining of a dry mouth, shortness of breath, the pupils are constricted and the individual is disorientated with periods of alertness and sleepiness then these are possible signs of heroin abuse. It is important to note though that these signs are not unique to heroin use and that other possible illnesses could be involved.
However, if the above symptoms are encountered together with the paraphernalia of heroin use then there is a strong likelihood that the individual has been taking the drug. As a family member or friend you need to look out for any used or unused needles, tinfoil or spoons with burn marks, anything that might be used as a tourniquet and any white or light brown powdery residue. These are all very good indicators that heroin is involved.
As well as the physiological signs and the paraphernalia there are also a number of behavioural and psychological signs to look out for. These include the individual lying or being deceptive about their actions, a change in physical appearance and personality, such as vagueness or confusion, a lack of hygiene and a loss of motivation and a general reduction in performance relating to everyday activities and goals. Heroin addicts can also be aggressive and hostile towards friends and family and often begin to steal and/or borrow money for no apparent reason.
Once the signs of heroin addiction have been identified it is important for a friend or family member to offer help and reassurance to the person. Very often a direct confrontation can lead to a worsening of the situation with the person leaving the household or running away. If possible get the person to see his or her local GP as soon as possible.
GPs will often refer an individual to a local addiction centre, so that an assessment can be undertaken, and a treatment plan agreed. There are a number of private clinics that offer detoxification and drug rehabilitation programs, where the individual stays at the treatment centre whilst the treatment is being undertaken.
Psychological and behavioural therapies have an important part to play in helping an individual give up taking heroin and these types of treatments are available at the various treatment centres.
There are many other organizations that can also be contacted for help and advice.