Most people don’t know what the signs of heroin use are, unless they’ve been in this situation before. Often times, family members or close friends will first search on the internet for signs of heroin use because they don’t know what it looks like. 

Friends and family who are unsure if their loved one is using drugs may be in denial and look for proof that their fears of drug use are wrong. But they may become suspicious that something is wrong because of a change in behavior they are seeing. 

Here are some ways to identify heroin use and addiction and the next steps you should take if you see signs of heroin use.

The Early Signs of Heroin Use

People closest to the drug user may notice early signs of heroin use, but not associate the signs with drug use. Friends and loved ones may notice a change in mood, isolation, irritability, drowsiness or sleeping for long periods of time. They may also notice things like money missing from their wallet or items missing from the house. 

At first, you may doubt yourself and think you just misplaced things. This is denial – and denial can prevent you from identifying the drug use for days, weeks, months, or even years.

Are You In Denial About A Family Member’s Drug Use?

Justification for behavior changes allow the family to stay in denial about possible drug use. Keep in mind that denial is a natural defense mechanism that protects us from physical, or emotional pain. 

Denial also protects us from feeling vulnerable or from not having control over someone or something. Are you in denial about a loved one’s addiction? Answering these few questions may help you identify denial:

  • Do you make excuses for their behavior? 
  • Do you downplay the consequences of the issue? 
  • Do you try not to face the facts of a problem? 

If so, you may be in denial. If you think you may be in denial, then I encourage you to seek counseling or find a support group to help you address the issue.

Common Signs of Heroin Addiction

By the time you identify that your loved one is using heroin, they are probably already dependent on the drug. The symptoms of middle to late stages of heroin use may include:

  • Mood changes
  • Significant weight loss
  • Pale skin
  • Poor skin complexion

You may also notice bruising or scars on the arms, hands, legs, or neck. The individual may wear long sleeves in warm weather. This is typically to cover any bruises or scars from use of needles.

Heroin users will often lose motivation to socialize, work, or be productive in life. These are definitely danger signs, and action should be taken.

What Do I Do if I See Signs of Heroin Use?

When first recognizing the signs of heroin use, I recommend openly discussing your concerns with your loved one. A lot of family and friends are afraid to confront the user because they may “make” them use again. 

The truth is, they will use again, whether you are their excuse or something else is. Let them know that you know and you care. 

Set boundaries with your loved one. The addicted person will often try to manipulate you into giving them what they want and they are good at making you feel guilty for not helping them. Don’t give them cash or allow them to “hit bottom”. They will only get help when the consequences outweigh the rewards.

Take Care Of You!

You should also contact treatment programs in your area to determine treatment alternatives. Any treatment center should be able to take the time to answer your questions. If they do not, call a different one.

Most treatment centers have a family program to help the family members heal from the trauma caused by addiction. There are also support groups for family members and friends of loved ones struggling with addiction. 

Many family members will deny having a problem of their own. They may think the addicted person is the one with the problem so that’s the one that needs help. 

Addiction is a slow progression and the people around them have slowly adapted to the presence of addiction. Keep in mind that you will only be helpful to your loved one if you have first taken care of yourself.