Heroin is a highly potent opioid drug that has no approved medicinal uses. It is an illegal drug and one of the most addictive. People who abuse heroin might snort, smoke, or inject the substance directly into their veins.[1]

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Among people aged 12 or older in 2021, 0.4% (or about 1.1 million people) reported using heroin in the past 12 months.”[2]

If you are worried that your loved one is abusing heroin, being aware of the signs of heroin abuse and addiction can help you convince them to get the help that they need. 7 common signs of heroin abuse and addiction are:

1. Social Isolation

One of the earliest signs of heroin abuse is social isolation. Most people who are abusing the drug will begin isolating themselves from their friends and family to conceal their drug use. While social isolation does not always mean your loved one is abusing heroin, it can indicate heroin addiction if it is accompanied by other signs of substance abuse.

2. Financial Issues

A heroin abuse habit can be incredibly expensive, which might cause your loved one to begin experiencing financial issues. Additionally, people who abuse heroin tend to have a hard time maintaining employment, so your loved one might not be making enough money to support their habit and pay their bills at the same time.

If your loved one is experiencing financial issues that they have not experienced in the past, they could be abusing a substance like heroin. Oftentimes, heroin addiction causes the use of heroin to take precedence over everything else in a person’s life, so your loved one will prioritize buying heroin over paying their bills or even buying themselves food.

3. Drug Paraphernalia

One of the telltale signs of heroin abuse and addiction is the presence of specific drug paraphernalia. Because people can smoke, snort, or inject heroin, there are different types of drug paraphernalia that you should look out for.

If your loved one is smoking heroin you might find:

  • Cut up straws
  • Empty baggies with powder residue
  • Tin foil with powder or burnt spots on it

If your loved one is snorting heroin you might find:

  • Cut up straws
  • Rolled-up dollar bills
  • Razor blades
  • Empty baggies with powder residue
  • Powder residue on flat surfaces

If your loved one is injecting heroin you might find:

  • Empty baggies with powder residue
  • Burnt spoons
  • Used needles
  • A belt or other material to tie off
  • Items like cotton or cigarette filters
signs of heroin abuse and addiction

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4. Unexplained Weight Loss

Heroin is known to suppress your appetite.[3] If your loved one frequently abuses heroin, they might not eat as much as they used to and they could begin losing large amounts of weight without any exercise.

Additionally, despite heroin being an appetite suppressant, people who abuse this substance might not have the money to buy food. Instead of eating, many people who are addicted choose to purchase and abuse heroin, so they might experience noticeable weight loss and malnutrition.

5. Physical Symptoms of Heroin Use

Heroin abuse causes symptoms that are incredibly easy to spot. The physical symptoms of heroin abuse and addiction are often the easiest way to tell if your loved one is addicted to the drug.

Physical symptoms of heroin use include:

  • Falling asleep suddenly (nodding off)
  • Slowed breathing
  • Dry mouth
  • Flushed skin
  • Changes in eating and weight loss
  • Runny nose
  • Itchiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Deterioration of personal hygiene and appearance
  • Weird smells on breath, body, and clothes
  • Tremors
  • Slowed speech
  • Coordination issues
  • Appearing lethargic or extremely tired
  • Track marks on the arm from injecting heroin
  • Burns on the lips from smoking heroin
  • Frequent nose bleeds from snorting heroin

6. Wearing Long Sleeves

If your loved one prefers to inject heroin, they will have track marks on their arms from the needles. Sometimes they experience damage to the veins, which can cause bruising or darkening of the veins. As a result, they will wear long sleeves to conceal their heroin abuse even when it is warm outside.

7. Withdrawal

If your loved one experiences the symptoms of heroin withdrawal when they are sober, they are addicted to the substance. Being able to spot the symptoms of heroin withdrawal will help you determine whether your loved one requires professional treatment.

The symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:[4]

  • Intense cravings for heroin
  • Excessive sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Restless legs
  • A heavy feeling in the body
  • Crying
  • Insomnia
  • Cold sweats
  • Runny nose and flu-like symptoms
  • Severe dehydration

Find Help for Heroin Abuse and Addiction Today

Heroin addiction is a severe substance use disorder that can lead to multiple life-threatening drug overdoses. If your loved one is suffering from heroin addiction, it’s time to seek professional help. At Woburn Wellness, we can provide your loved one with the tools and support they need to maintain long-term sobriety. Contact us today for more information on our heroin rehab programs in Massachusetts.


  1. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA): Heroin DrugFacts, Retrieved May 2023 From https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin
  2. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA): What is the Scope of Heroin Use in the United States, Retrieved May 2023 From https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/scope-heroin-use-in-united-states
  3. National Institutes of Health (NIH): Using Illicit Drugs to Lose Weight among Recovering Female Drug Users in China, Retrieved May 2023 From https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8909896/
  4. National Library of Medicine: Opioid Withdrawal, Retrieved May 2023 From https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526012/
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