Signs & Symptoms of Heroin Use

Discovering that your loved one has a problem with heroin can be upsetting at best, and devastating at worst. Being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of heroin use will give you the best chance at helping someone in the early stages of heroin addiction. It’s important to note that people exhibit addiction in different ways, but there are a few common signs.

Physical Symptoms of Heroin Use

Before you notice anything else, you’ll likely start to notice physical changes in your friend or loved one. Some of the most common physical changes someone undergoes during heroin use include:

  • Small pupils
  • Tired eyes
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Disorientation
  • Flushed skin
  • Slow breathing

Someone using heroin may display one or all of these symptoms, depending upon how much they’ve used and how strong the drug is. Always pay attention to the person’s breathing. If it seems too shallow or the breaths are too far apart, call for help immediately. This could be the onset of a heroin overdose.

Behavioral Symptoms of Heroin Use

While it may be easier to notice the physical signs first, behavioral signs are usually more upsetting. These develop over time, as a person becomes more and more entrenched in their addiction. Your friend or loved one may be using heroin if they display some of the following behaviors:

  • Lying frequently
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Changing sleeping patterns
  • Losing interest in things that were once important
  • Worsening performance at school, work or other activities
  • Developing a general apathy

Though it might be challenging, try not to take any of these behaviors personally. When someone develops an addiction, they become a slave to the drug and will do just about anything to get it. Sometimes that means treating loved ones poorly or acting out.


Finding heroin paraphernalia can be just as telling as someone’s physical appearance or actions. The following items are often considered to be signs of heroin use:

  • Needles or syringes
  • Burned spoons
  • Loose shoelaces
  • Tiny plastic bags with powder residue
  • Pipes
  • Burnt aluminum foil

How to Help Your Loved One

If you read the above signs and symptoms and kept nodding to yourself, it may be time to talk to your loved one about whether or not they have a heroin addiction. Approach the subject carefully and from a place of honest caring and consideration. You may get some pushback, but if you can help, it’s vital that you do.

Talk to your loved one about finding a quality heroin detox or rehab center. A detox program will safely flush the chemicals out of their body and prepare them for recovery and treatment in a rehab facility. Getting help to stay clean and sober long term is necessary for your loved one’s health and well-being.

We have the resources to match individuals with a heroin overdose treatment facility that can help them get clean and take back control of their life.