The Big ‘H’ – Signs Of Heroin Use And Abuse

Articles, Australia, International, Understanding Addiction

Heroin; mythicized, idolised, demonised and downright destructive. Whatever your take on ‘Horse’ is, one thing is for sure: Once tried it will not let go easily.

Let’s take a look at the tools of the trade heroin users will leave around and the symptoms that tell others ‘Smack’ is currently walloping you.

Tools of the trade:

We will forget the substance itself for one moment, but consider some of the common paraphernalia heroin users will have hidden or lying around.

Containers often come in the form of small balloons, and dispensers in the form of cut-up straws. There will be strips of foil often marked by burns. If you find your cutlery draw light on spoons this is because they are an essential part of the heroin preparation process.

Most heroin users will take their own shoelaces before yours, but desperate times call for desperate measures, so perhaps slip-on’s are a safer option!

Shoelaces or rubber bands are used for the arms, the sinister, ever-present stack of needles speak for themselves and many hoard enough lighters (used, part-used and full) to provide a well-stocked tobacco store in merchandise.

Changes in a user, suspicious behaviour and ‘new’ friends:

If you have suspicions that a loved one or friend is using drugs this trio of alerts will serve to confirm your worst fears:

Physical changes in the user:

Take a look at those eyes, a Smack user will have pupils like pin-holes for up to 5 hours after shooting-up. Even though they are extremely familiar with their surroundings they will often appear disoriented, personal hygiene takes a back seat and if there is silence in the room you will often hear shallow breathing.

Weight loss is another common physical change with heroin users sporting a gaunt look, and while they will often wear long sleeve shirts and trousers, keep an eye out for track marks on their body. This last fact confirms without saying you have a heroin user in your midst.

Suspicious behaviour:

When heroin takes a hold the addict will often become paranoid and leave a trail of suspicion behind. Have you recently noticed a lock-box or drawer that is permanently closed in their room? If so this is where they keep their precious paraphernalia.

Are valuables or cash going missing, and is the user often seen skulking around which was never a previous trait?

New ‘Friends’

Beware of new faces on the scene, those with sleek new vehicles and sharp clothes could well be involved in the drug business, those with a pasty pallor and unkempt appearance are partners in crime in terms of heroin use.

Either way, such new friends need to be treated with caution. Do not leave valuables lying around and keep your eyes open.

Two sides to a sad story:

The Addict:

Those addicted to heroin often find their loved ones have not got the first clue as to how appealing and addictive the drug is, or how very, very pleasant that completely spaced out zone they have found is.

They also know for sure there will be no shouting from the rooftops, or even a quiet whisper that Smack has the better of them.

Denial is one weapon addicts use constantly. Initially this denial of drug use will be believed, but that will very quickly fade into disbelief due to a combination of the signs and symptoms we have mentioned above.

Those closest:

From a loved one’s perspective, they may never have tried any type of drug in their life, or at best had a fleeting fling with marijuana or popped the odd party pill.

Having to watch someone you love dearly deteriorate in front of your eyes to something you have no knowledge of is frustrating, annoying and ultimately heart-breaking.

Broaching the subject; Do’s and Don’ts

How easy it is for a non-user to fly off the handle at a loved one they suspect of drug abuse and how easy it is to give ultimatums in the heat of the moment.

While both of these and other extremely strong reactions are natural feelings, please resist the urge.

Spend time reading and researching addiction issues, understand that your situation is not unique and that millions of others face the same angst, but above all understand just how effective rehabilitation establishments can be.

When you have this information and knowledge you can then approach the user, keep calm, be firm and tell them they need help and you want to help them.

Explain there is no need for them to deny any longer, but there is a need for them to seek professional rehab assistance, and that you will be with them every step of the way.

Continue to badger and cajole, continue to gather information and seek out the best treatment.

Once decided upon support them through this tough period of their life with the burning hope that this treatment and counselling will be the beginning of the end for their relationship with the mighty big ‘H’.

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Anne -

Anne Lazarakis joined the DARA Rehab team from Sydney, Australia. She writes about addiction and mental health on a global, local and community level. She also relays personal accounts of substance abuse and recovery through the stories of our clients, their families and our own team members.

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