Heroin abuse is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition. This highly addictive and destructive drug claims the lives of more than 25 people every day, every year (1). Are you worried that your loved one may have a problem with heroin

Learning to recognize heroin addiction signs is the initial and essential step in securing help for your loved one, as early intervention is vital in the journey toward overcoming addiction. What are the common signs of heroin addiction, and what can you do to support someone you care about if they want to stop using?

Heroin Addiction Signs

Heroin is a powerful opioid drug with some serious effects and a high likelihood of long-term consequences. Heroin abuse causes notable changes to a person’s mind, body, emotions, and behaviors.2 If you’re concerned your loved one may be abusing the drug, these heroin addiction signs will give you something to look out for.

Behavioral Changes

  • Neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or home
  • Disregarding personal appearance, including grooming or hygiene
  • Isolating from friends and family
  • Losing interest in activities or hobbies they enjoyed
  • Difficulty managing responsibilities at work, school, or home
  • Participating in risky or criminal behaviors

Physical Signs

  • Sudden changes in appetite or drastic shifts in weight
  • Slurred or “thick-sounding” speech
  • Constricted pupils
  • Track marks or abscesses on the arms, legs, or other body parts (from injection use)

Psychological Symptoms

  • Mood swings and emotional instability
  • Depression, anxiety, and irritability
  • Confusion or impaired decision-making
  • Memory problems and difficulties with concentration

Financial Problems

  • Regularly borrowing money with no explanation
  • Selling personal belongings or stealing to support the addiction

Social and Relationship Issues

  • Neglecting relationships or withdrawing from friends and family
  • Difficulty maintaining healthy personal relationships
  • Sudden change in friend groups

Physical Health Issues

  • Poor immune health or getting sick more frequently
  • Noticeable respiratory problems, such as chronic cough and lung issues
  • Gastrointestinal problems, including nausea or constipation

Drug Paraphernalia

  • Finding drug-related paraphernalia, including foil, spoons, needles, syringes, or small bags or packets

Withdrawal Symptoms

When a person addicted to heroin tries to quit or goes without the drug, they may experience withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Severe cravings
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating and chills
  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Relapse

How to Help a Loved One With Heroin Abuse

People do not struggle with heroin abuse because they lack willpower or self-control. Addiction, also called substance use disorder, is a serious medical condition and should be recognized as such. Ensuring your loved one receives the help they need means understanding that they’re often dealing with a problem beyond their control, especially when it comes to a drug like heroin.

Specialized addiction treatment programs like those at Steps to Recovery are one of the most effective solutions for people struggling with substance use. If your loved one shows heroin addiction signs, we can help. Find a location near you today and reach out to us to find out which program best suits your loved one’s needs.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2023). Drug Overdose Death Rates.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2022). Heroin DrugFacts.