She wasn’t making sense and her words were slurred and garbled. After she talked about her trouble with drug abuse, I asked her if she was high. She was. On heroin.
• Listen this Saturday November 12 to my conversation with Cara who struggles with addiction to Heroin. Her story reveals a side of drug addiction many of us never witness.
Heroin is the most abused, fast acting and popular of all opiate drugs.
Almost immediately upon using heroin, users experience euphoria, warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth, heaviness in the arms and legs, and poor cognition.
Cara exhibited poor cognition when she wasn’t really tracking with our conversation. It was disjointed and, to be honest, I almost hung up on her. It was frustrating trying to talk to her. Yes, I was trying to talk to someone in the throes of a heroin high.
Other signs of heroin and opiate abuse include:
• Shortness of breath
• Sudden changes in behavior or actions
• Cycles of hyper alertness followed by suddenly nodding off
• Droopy appearance, as if extremities are heavy
• Constricted (small) pupils
Opiate abusers, even those pill poppers who abuse Oxycontin, Vicodin, Lortab and that class of medications, may initially be able to hide their drug abuse, but one sign they cannot hide is the constricted pupils. If you suspect an opiate addiction, one sure sign is if you see that their pupils are small, even in dim light, where the pupils in your eyes would normally open wider.
Behavioral signs of heroin and opiate abuse include:
• Lying or other deceptive behavior
• Avoiding eye contact
• Sleeping more
• Poor hygiene
• Slurred, garbled, incoherent speech
• Apathy, lack of motivation
• Stealing or borrowing money
• Hostile toward loved ones
• Withdrawal from family and friends
While the above signs can apply to all opiate addictions, those specific to heroin abuse include possession of drug paraphernalia such as needles, syringes, burned silver spoons and aluminum foil with burn marks. Addicts will also wear long pants or sleeves, even in warm weather, to hide the needle marks.
Before you judge a heroin addict harshly, realize that the single most reliable indicator of risk for drug and alcohol problems is a family history where either one, or both, of your parents had an alcohol or drug problem.
Alcoholism and drug dependency frequently co-occur and genetics plays a role. Once a person first uses alcohol or drugs, the genetics set the stage for those who are at risk of developing an addiction. Their bodies respond differently. It can create the perfect storm. This is even proven in twin studies where identical twins, separated and adopted in infancy, were four times more likely to be alcoholic if their biological parent was an alcoholic. The addiction status of their adoptive parents showed no correlation.
Heroin addiction, opiate addiction and alcoholism run in families. Beware! If you have a parent who is an addict, drinking alcohol or taking addictive drugs could be your version of playing Russian Roulette. The single bullet loaded in the gun is your genetics. Pull the trigger with alcohol and drugs and this game of chance could turn lethal.
• For more information on the Genetics of Addiction, listen this Saturday November 12, to “The Joan Jerkovich Show” on 1150 KSAL at 6am, or link to the podcast Monday through ksal.com.
The article “Family History and Genetics” by Robert M. Morse, MD, was referenced for this blog.
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