A heroin addict* may experience mild or major changes in behavior as a result of their addiction. These behaviors can be physical, mental, emotional, or other changes.
While many behaviors are common across most heroin users, there is no single definition of what a heroin addict looks or behaves like.
*Important note: We avoid the use of stigmatic language such as ‘addict’ or ‘heroin user’ as much as possible. However, we will use this language in this article to inform and equip those struggling with drug use and their loved ones.
Learn more about the signs of a heroin addict
Physical Heroin Addict Behaviors
If you are concerned that a loved one may be abusing heroin, there are several behaviors you can be on the lookout for.
Physical Signs In The Body
Heroin addicts usually have a few characteristic bodily signs.
Some of the physical results of heroin addict behaviors include:
- “track marks”, scarring of the skin from needles usually found in the arms, hands, legs, and feet. This is one of the clearest signs of intravenous (IV) heroin use
- infections or abscesses from IV heroin use
- nodding off
- slowed breathing
- weight loss
- changes in appetite
- impaired coordination
- slurred speech
- runny nose
- nausea and vomiting
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Changes In Habits
If a loved one is abusing heroin, you may notice a change in their habits. Habit changes are usually due to a desire to hide their heroin use, or behaviors used to get more heroin.
A few of these include:
- asking for money, or taking money without permission
- spending time with heroin-using friends or family members
- picking at the skin
- falling through on responsibilities
- wearing long-sleeved clothing, even in warmer weather
Use Of New Language Or Slang
Some heroin users begin using new slang words to describe the drug, the act of using heroin, other users, and more.
Pay attention to the language your loved one is using if they’re using words you’re unfamiliar with. They may be using street names for heroin around you if they think you won’t recognize it.
Here are a few common terms used for heroin use:
- slang for heroin: blow, china, boy, black tar, big H
- slang for heroin use: chasing the dragon, chipper, jolly popper, cotton shooter
- slang for heroin drug combinations: atom bomb or A-bomb, china white, speedball
Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms
You may also notice changes in behavior when a person is withdrawing from heroin.
Some of the signs of heroin withdrawal include:
- flu-like symptoms
- hot and cold flashes
- muscle cramps
- watery eyes and nose
Emotional/Mental Heroin Addict Behaviors
Using heroin can cause many emotional and mental changes. Heroin is a powerful opioid drug that’s strong enough to influence brain patterns and behaviors.
Changes In Emotional State
Many heroin users struggle with aggressive and sometimes dangerous behaviors.
The drug can cause effects like sexual dysfunction, insomnia, sudden mood swings, and changes in perception of reality. All of these factors can make a person more agitated.
In younger heroin users, many teens and adolescents also tend to run away from home. They might be avoiding confrontation, punishment, or looking for a way to use heroin more freely.
Worsened Or New Mental Illnesses
Many people who abuse heroin experience mental illness. This may be a direct result of using heroin, or heroin may worsen existing mental illnesses.
Heroin use has been linked to the following mental illnesses:
- bipolar disorder
- borderline personality disorder (BDP)
- antisocial personality disorder (APD)
If your loved one is exhibiting changes in their mental state and they have a history of drug use, this may be a sign of heroin abuse.
Crime-Related Heroin Addict Behaviors
A person who’s addicted to heroin may engage in riskier behavior than they might if they were not addicted to the substance.
Crime can be a result of actions taken to get more heroin, actions that are a direct result of being high on heroin, increased aggression on heroin, or other factors.
A few of the crime-related behavioral changes in a heroin addict may include:
- incarceration or frequent arrests
- theft or burglary
- damage of property
- impulsive violence
- engaging in fights
Finding Heroin Addiction Treatment
Heroin addiction can manifest through multiple behavioral changes. Using heroin can lead to habitual substance abuse, physical dependence, and addiction.
The underlying issues of mental illness and coping mechanisms must be addressed when looking at cases of heroin abuse.
Most often, these heroin addict behaviors are a result of the environment a person is living in, or issues they’re trying to escape from.
Treatment is available today, just call our helpline to learn more.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)—Withdrawal Management
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)—Heroin DrugFacts
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)—Mental Health Effects