In recent years Heroin, an opioid drug (that can be snorted, smoked, or injected), has started to make a real comeback. Whereas years ago it was primarily used by young adults it is now becoming the drug of choice in suburban middle and high schools. The government and non-profit organizations have recently started releasing public service announcements on the rising problem. The hope is to increase parents awareness that there is a problem with this particular drug in our areas and that it is affecting children as young as 13 years old. Our middle school aged children are now in danger. So how can you tell if your child is using heroine?
The answer is “changes” in behavior, attire, grades, friends, sleep habits, personality, spending habits, and eventually their health status. Let’s start with behavior, it really is a key signal that something is wrong. When a person is using heroin they become lazy and self-serving. Most of their day revolves around obtaining and using the drug, so for the most part they are either scamming for extra cash or isolating to get high. Your child may ask for more money than usual with some wild excuses as to why they need it, or money may go missing in the household. If the drug has reached an addictive phase items in your home may start to disappear, being sold for drugs. Your child may begin to isolate in his room or disappear frequently for long periods of time, this is to get high. Heroin is a very strong opioid drug and once used renders the person unable to do much but lay around and occasionally vomit, these are hard symptoms to hide so the person will disappear for a while to a private atmosphere. Most users do not want to explain their daily lives to anyone and will start to isolate from family and their pre-drug friends. They can become nasty, sick, and self-centered in nature. Basically if your not there to help them get high then you have become of no use to them and are in the way. Interpersonal relationships that used to be important become non-existent.
Their appearance usually changes dramatically, going from well-kept to downright “dirtbag” issue. Most users can barely find enough strength to get their next fix let alone shower and shave. Look for signs of bad hygiene and unusual attire. Clothes may be dirty, mis-matched, or they may even wear the same clothes for days in a row. Hair and nails may be unkempt, and not to be funny, but they may have very bad body odor.
School performance will most certainly be suffering. A child who is using heroine will usually not be capable of keeping up with school work, so grades will take a plunge. Any extra curricular activities will most likely be dropped, generally because even if he did have the energy to participate, he just won’t want to. Attendance is more than likely to become poor, and he may even consider dropping out of school. There is just no room in his life for school when he is using.
Big red flag is his change in friends. Users only want to be with other users. His friends will most likely display the same lack of manners, poor hygiene, and shabby appearance that your child currently has. Milestones for the teen years will be missed, such as dating. The only thing your child will seem to have time for will be his new friends, and this means getting high.
Eventually a bad enough habit will affect his health. He may display signs of weight loss, profuse sweating, anorexia, memory loss, nausea and vomiting. He may try to explain it away as the flu or a virus, but these incidences of illness will become so frequent that it couldn’t possibly be true. His body is now addicted to the drug and needs it to maintain a normal status.
Once you have determined it is heroin use that has your child in its grasp then you need to decide what to do about it.