Heroin – signs, symptoms and treatment of a deadly drug


Sometimes just recognising the symptoms of someone who is abusing or addicted to drugs and alcohol can save their lives. Potentially deadly drugs like Heroin can take an enormous toll on family and relationships in general, not to mention the great harm it does to the abuser.

We hope this will help you to recognise such symptoms as an observer – or as an addict help you understand the implications of taking such a drug and what it can potentially do to you.

What is heroin?

For the uninitiated, Heroin is a derivative of morphine, in turn, a derivative of the famous Opium Poppy plant. Usually injected, but snorted, smoked or sniffed, the results are the same – usually addiction to a devastating illegal substance.

Heroin releases the chemical dopamine in the brain which temporarily provides a euphoric feeling and is a great pain reliever too, often why those addicted to pain medication may turn to this when legal drugs are no longer prescribed.

Signs and symptoms of heroin abuse

Like any other drug or alcohol, indefinite usage can lead to irreparable physical damage and even death, but hopefully, it can be arrested in the early stages and to help a loved one with this one needs to recognise some early symptoms.

General physical symptoms include…

  • A big giveaway if the addict is using a needle to inject the drug will be inexplicable needle marks
  •  If the drug is being snorted, as with cocaine, the similar runny nose symptoms are present.
  • Slurred speech
  • Pupils of the eye becoming smaller – or constricted
  • Drowsiness or general agitation
  • General feelings of depression
  • Problems with memory recall
  • Possible constant constipation
  • Someone who exhibits little pain

Other symptoms are behavioural and these include:

  • Being very secretive or suddenly aggressive
  • Addicts experience money issues and are constantly seeking ways to obtain more (to get the drug)
  • Obvious changes in appearance, or the decline of personal hygiene habits
  • School or work issues – or unusual absences
  • Dangerous behaviour putting oneself and others at risk

From the user’s point of view

As a user who believes your habit is pretty harmless, then consider these possible signs that you are leading to an addictive state from which you will find it difficult to return:

  • If you are unable to stop using the drug, even though you can feel that it is affecting you badly.
  • If you need to take more and more of the substance to achieve the same euphoric state you did when you were using a lot less.


Certain medications are prescribed to assist those who express a willingness to change, but these medicines can be themselves almost as damaging as the drug. The better route and the way you, as a loved one can assist the addict, is to suggest in or outpatient treatment that includes individual or group therapy conducted by experienced professional counsellors.

Transformation Life Centre (TLC) based in Sandton, Johannesburg, is a faith-based rehabilitation facility that conducts the most effective treatment based on establishing the root cause of the addiction.

Through time, encouragement, guidance and training we incorporate the individual into a faith-based community. We provide ongoing support to ensure the addict is free from drug or alcohol addiction and ready to live a totally transformed life.

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