How to recognise a heroin addiction

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Heroin is a dangerous and highly addictive drug that affects people with mental health and addiction challenges, along with the people around them. Users inject, snort or smoke heroin to achieve an initial rush, feelings of euphoria and a sense of deep relaxation.

Chasing this high, and the calm that follows, leads many heroin users to become dependent on the drug. Some people are even able to maintain a seemingly normal life while struggling with heroin addiction. To do this, they hide their addiction from friends and loved ones. This requires covering up heroin track marks, concealing paraphernalia and constructing an exhausting series of lies to cover up their drug use.

What are track marks?

Heroin users who take the drug intravenously will have to learn to give themselves injections, most commonly through the arm. Frequent or unskilled heroin injections in a single place leave very distinct skin irritation called track marks, or needle tracks. Track marks on arms, or any other area, can eventually leave permanent visible damage to that area.

What do track marks look like?

Track marks look like discoloured, raised areas of the vein, along with puncture wounds (that look like small holes) which will, at some point, start to turn into lesions and scabs. With long-term heroin use, the skin around the injection site may start to become infected. The veins will start to look darker and bruised, before becoming scarred. These are known as heroin scars.

Five ways to recognise a heroin addict

To someone unfamiliar with the drug, it can be very difficult to spot a heroin addiction. However, there are some tips that can help to identify the issue. Here, we outline five common methods that heroin users employ to conceal their habit.

  1. Hiding or minimising heroin track marks: To hide track marks on arms or any other area, heroin users may frequently cover up this part of their body. They may do this by regularly wearing long sleeves, trousers, socks or boots, even in warmer weather. To prevent the track marks becoming too pronounced in one area, they may start to inject in their leg, between their fingers or toes, or even in the groin or neck. These areas will then also display track marks, though they may be less noticeable if they are injected less frequently. Users may frequently switch heroin injection sites in this way, to help keep needle tracks to a minimum and prevent heroin scars.

  2. Covering track marks with tattoos: Heroin users may try to cover up needle tracks using tattoos. By tattooing over their most frequently used heroin injection site, users can conceal any track marks under the ink. This would likely only be the case if they didn’t have fresh wounds from repeated drug use.

  3. Taking desperate financial measures: Heroin users often have problems managing their money. A heroin addict may spend £400 or more per week on heroin and paraphernalia. This can leave them in a desperate financial situation. Most people with a serious addiction to heroin will create a web of lies to hide their money problems. If they are unable to support their habit legally, heroin addicts may turn to theft or other illegal means to get the money they need.

  4. Never using in public: Heroin users will usually avoid using in a place where people could see or catch them. This is important to mention because heroin addicts will go to such great lengths to cover up their addiction. They will take great care in hiding used foil or needles. It is very rare for an addict to let even their closest friends or family see evidence of their heroin use.

  5. Frequently making up reasons to disappear: To help hide their addiction, heroin users may make up various errands and tasks they have to go and carry out. This could include needing more petrol, cigarettes, or some other trivial item. Making excuses to disappear somewhere provides them with a chance to obtain more heroin and/or use. The more time someone spends with a heroin addict, the more noticeable this habit is.

While this is by no means a complete list, it will help you to become familiar with common ways heroin addicts try to hide their addiction. It is important to recognise the problem when you notice it and to assist the person in getting help and support. At Life Works, we offer heroin addiction rehab. Call today to find out how we can support individuals and families in overcoming addiction and starting the journey to a better road ahead.

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