Both physical and behavioral changes are indicative of drug use. Though usage of a specific drug has its own unique manifestations, there are many common signs and symptoms that tell whether a person is using drugs. Some of them are: extreme mood swings; sudden change in behavior; formation of new friend groups; loss of interest in everyday activities and hobbies; loss in upkeep of personal hygiene and careless about personal appearance; runny nose; withdrawal from family; changed sleeping habits, etc.
Heroin is a very addictive drug in that it takes a very small amount of time to reach the brain after it is injected into the bloodstream. Smoking and snorting the drug also bring about very quick results.
Pure heroin is a white powdery substance and when it is impure it is brown in color. It is sometimes mixed with caffeine and sold. Black tar heroin is of sticky consistency and nearly black in color. Heroin is usually purchased in small plastic pouches or baggies. Heroin is either smoked, injected or snorted. Discarded syringes and a large number of needles lying around can be a sign of heroin addiction. Other objects used for preparation and ingestion of heroin include straws, aluminum foils, gum wrappers, razor blades, spoons, lighters, glass and metal pipes, and rolled up strips of paper. Paraphernalia that are used to cause the veins to enlarge for the purpose of injecting heroin include rubber tubing, shoelaces, or belts.
Injected heroin produces euphoria very rapidly, usually in a matter of seconds. Immediate symptoms include flushed skin, dry mouth, constricted pupils, depressed respiration, etc., among others. The arms and legs feel heavy and they feel dopey and move slowly. Heroin users move between bouts of sleep and wakefulness. Disorientation is also common. 'Nodding' or a dreamlike state is common. However, for long-time users, heroin functions as a stimulant and some of them may be able to perform a normal day's work. For others, it makes them drowsy and completely powerless to perform daily routine work.
Heroin ingestion is known to suppress pain. It is also known to cause spontaneous abortion. Accompanied by severe itching, heroin slows down the cardiac functions. Breathing is known to slow down, sometimes causing death. Heroin addicts are at a greater risk of developing infectious diseases such as hepatitis B and C and HIV due to shared syringes. They have collapsed veins, and may develop infection of the heart lining and valves. They are more prone to bacterial infections.
An addict is more prone to lung complications such as pneumonia and tuberculosis due to heroin's depression of the respiratory system. Vital organs such as the lungs, kidneys, liver, etc., can develop patches of dead cells. This is seen as the effect of additives added to the heroin. Reactions of the immune system to contaminants are known to cause rheumatic arthritis.
Heroin addiction generally leads to deceptive behavior and increased instances of lying. Addicts usually avoid eye contact and have a distant field of vision. Over a period of time, the speech becomes slurred and incoherent. The amount of time spent in sleeping increases. The addict lacks motivation and loss of interest in work or hobbies. The performance at school or work suddenly deteriorates. Those in jobs may find themselves expelled. Addicts clearly withdraw from their families and move with a new circle of friends.
Heroin addicts regularly make comments that lower their self esteem. They exhibit hostile behavior towards loved ones. Valuables constantly go missing as addicts repeatedly steal to find money for their expensive drug habit. Heroin addicts generally wear clothes with long sleeves or pants, even during warm weather, to hide needle marks.
When the tolerance for the drug grows, the body deteriorates physically. Weight loss is observed. The long-term users of heroin generally have unhealthy pasty white colored skin with dark circles under the eyes. The faces have a gaunt appearance. Women experience irregular menstrual cycles. The sites of injection usually develop abscesses. Skin picking leads to cuts and bruises. Nausea and vomiting are frequent occurrences.
Emerging withdrawal symptoms may help to spot an addict. Some of the common withdrawal symptoms are muscle and bone aches, diarrhea, cold sweats, insomnia, involuntary leg movements, goose bumps, etc. Major withdrawal symptoms peak within 24 to 48 hours after the last dose of heroin was taken.
As with any drug abuse, heroin addicts are known to spend more energy and time to devise methods that help them to obtain and use the drug. Their primary objective becomes seeking out and using the drug.