Signs of Drug Abuse Series 3 – Heroin

Welcome back to the “Signs of Drug Abuse” series. We’ve already looked at the signs of marijuana & cocaine use; now, we’re taking a closer look at heroin and the symptoms users display.

Heroin, also known as smack, skag, or gear, is a powerful opiate that is made from morphine which is extracted from the opium poppy. It’s injected, smoked or snorted.

The effects of using heroin is that it makes the user feel happy, relaxed, pain-free, euphoric and/or sleepy. Effects can last for around an hour, depending on the size of the user and the amount taken.

Overdosing on heroin is very easy; it kills more people in the UK than any other illegal drug. Overdosing can lead people to feel sleepy and breathe too slowly. It’s easy to build a tolerance to heroin, meaning more is required for the same highs – however, if a user stops then restarts, their tolerance can drastically fall and a user can risk an overdose. It’s highly addictive.

If you’re worried that a co-worker may be using, there are some behavioural indicators that may give you a better idea before asking for help.

Mood swings. Sudden change to their behaviour or actions may be an indication of substance abuse.

Shortness of breath. Heroin can depress breathing, meaning the breathing rate may change.

Small pupils. The eyes may also appear droopy and tired.

Disorientation. Those using heroin can feel out of sorts.

Hyper alertness, followed by tiredness. Heroin can make people extremely tired, so a cycle of being alert followed by tiredness may be apparent.

Weight loss. Regular users can build a tolerance to heroin, meaning they may use more frequently and use higher amounts. This can lead to weight loss.

Needle track marks. Users may have visible marks, or try to cover their arms to hide marks.

If you’re worried someone you know or work with is using heroin, it’s important to seek help – not only for their safety, but for yours too. We recommend speaking in confidence to your HR department or manager for advice – be as sensitive and professional as possible.

If you’re unsure what action to take, you can give SureScreen a call for private, confidential advice on 01332 365318.