Heroin is an opiate that creates a sense of euphoria and relaxation in users by blocking the brain’s pain receptors. As drug users move through different substances, the chase for euphoria can get higher. Heroin is often one of those drugs that users resort to when other opiates fail to induce the same amount of pleasure they might have induced upon initial use.

Addiction to heroin is usually characterized by the compulsive quest for the drug and neurochemical changes in the brain.

Heroin is an opiate, as it comes from an opium poppy plant. While some opiates are prescribed for pain relief, heroin is highly addicted, and usually cut (mixed) poisons that are dangerous to the body. Heroin can damage the heart, liver, lungs and kidneys. It can cause veins to collapse, difficulty breathing and infectious disease. In serious cases, heroin use leads to death.

En route to the physical damage caused by heroin, abusing the drug causes social consequences that ultimately exacerbate the pursuit of the drug and continued the addiction.

Social Consequences of Heroin:

  • Financial problems
  • Difficulty getting to work
  • Disciplinary issues
  • Broken marriages and relationships
  • Loss of child custody
  • Broken friendships
  • Dissolution of the family
  • Child abuse
  • Lack of productivity
  • Domestic abuse

Using heroin usually leads to becoming addicted to heroin. As the addict’s priorities shift to revolve around finding heroine, previous priorities such as an income, family, friends and self-care fall lower on the daily needs routine. Addiction to heroin is expensive, reinforcing the shift of priorities to drug use and using all available income to the drug, thereby neglecting money for health, food, family and shelter.

Heroin Behavioral Effects

Below are the signs to look for in someone you suspect is using heroin:

In the beginning, hiding heroin use is possible, especially if the user has experience with substance abuse and with hiding consumption. Immediate confrontation can backfire if your accusation is not substantiated, and it can drive the user into more methodical hiding.

social consequences of heroin

A heroin addict might have the following items around their physical space:

  • Non-medical needles or syringes
  • Aluminum foil with burn marks
  • Burned silver spoons
  • Gum wrappers with burn marks
  • Small plastic bags (with white residue)
  • Water pipes (while heroin is typically injected via needle, it can be smoked or snorted, too)


Physical and behavioral tendencies associated with heroin include:

  • Falling performance in work or school
  • No eye contact
  • Disinterest in previously enjoyed hobbies
  • Ignoring basic hygiene
  • Lying
  • Declining body image
  • Wearing long sleeves (hiding needle marks)
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Isolation
  • New, random friends
  • Increased sleeping
  • Blaming loved ones for current circumstances
  • Weight loss
  • Cuts, scabs and bruises
  • Loss of period (women)
  • A runny nose
  • Needle tracks (typically on arms), possibly with infections


Other physical and behavioral characteristics are associated with the use of heroin, but not exclusively. Still, you can use these signs as warnings of a potential drug use problem.

  • Droopy appearance
  • Hyper-alertness followed by fatigue or nodding off
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Small pupils
  • Disorientation
  • Sudden changes in behavior


While heroin is highly addictive and its consequences can be extreme, addicts have an opportunity to recover. If your loved one is displaying signs of heroin use, intervene before it gets to abuse and addiction. If your loved one is displaying signs of abuse and addiction, it is still possible to help.

Reach out to United Recovery Project to get the help that you and your loved one need today. Our agents have the resources you need to help an addict into recovery to get back to sober, healthy living.