Physical and Behavioral Signs of Heroin Addiction

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Heroin addiction is quite severe with drastic consequences for an individual who does not receive proper help. When a loved one is struggling, it helps to learn the physical and behavioral signs of addiction, build awareness and seek help when needed.

Physical Signs

The physical signs of addiction are determined based on what most people experience but can vary according to each individual case. A person may or may not exhibit one or all of the symptoms of addiction. Heroin will begin to take over every thought a person has, which may cause that individual to be less likely to be careful about appearance and behavior. Some common physical signs may appear including:

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Chronically runny nose
  • Flushed cheeks
  • Increased scabs, cuts or bruises
  • Dilated pupils
  • Fatigued

The National Institute on Drug Abuse states a major sign of heroin addiction is physical marks on the skin from using a needle to inject the drug. Individuals who struggle with addiction may try to hide the marks by wearing long sleeves (even in warm weather).

Behavioral Shifts

An individual addicted to heroin will exhibit shifts in his or her behavior. While physical changes may be the first sign of a problem, behavioral changes are a big indicator of addiction that has taken hold. Individuals struggling with addiction undergo significant behavioral changes. Since consistent changes will occur due to the powerful opiate-based drug, a person is not acting like his or herself anymore. Some of the common behavioral signs may include:

  • Lying to loved ones
  • Withdrawing from society
  • Lack of interest in things previously engaged in
  • Poor school performance or being fired from work
  • Unusual sleeping patterns
  • Slurred, incoherent speech

Heroin-Related Paraphernalia

Heroin-related paraphernalia will vary person to person but typically includes items an individual will use to inject heroin such as needles, syringes, loose shoelaces, burned spoons, thin rubber tubes or glass pipes. Some of those may be separate from the others but when put together add up to signs of addiction. Other heroin-related items may include small plastic baggies with white, powdery residue. It is important to know what to look for rather than be alarmed that the items exist. It is important to think critically about what it all means and put together a plan that will help the individual recover from addiction. Family support will be critical in helping a loved one take that next step into treatment.


Sustain Recovery provides gender separate programs in a safe, structured environment for adolescents who struggle with substance abuse. Learn more about our programs by contacting us to see how we can help your teen overcome addiction.