Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Warning Signs Your Teen Is Abusing Heroin

Heroin abuse infects every layer of your son’s life so the signs that indicate your teen is abusing heroin can include a wide range of telltale issues. From health concerns to changes in social choices and problems at home and at school, the signs of addiction are a parent’s first indication that their child needs help. Unfortunately, these signs may not become apparent until after heroin abuse has become a substantial issue.

If you determine that your son is abusing heroin, we can help him heal through treatment programs designed to offer him everything he needs for a successful recovery. At Muir Wood, we offer a range of treatment and therapeutic options, from pharmacological resources and wilderness adventure trips to numerous experiential therapies in addition to the traditional personal therapy and group therapy options that are so effective in helping teenagers work through the issues that may be driving them to abuse heroin.

Emotional Signs of Teen Heroin Abuse

There are a number of changes that will occur during the teen years that will affect your son’s emotional state. Everything from hormone issues to breakups will change how your teen acts and reacts on a daily basis. But when a teenager abuses heroin, the changes are more extreme, erratic, and increase in severity as the use of the drug increases. Some common emotional issues faced by teens during active heroin abuse include:

  • Isolating from family events on a regular basis
  • Extreme changes in appearance and attitude
  • Angry, morose, or depressed behavior
  • Breaking rules at home and school
  • Belligerence toward authority – including you
  • Dropping out of activities including sports, hobbies and school-related organizations
  • Poor academic performance and a lack of interest in academic opportunities

Physical Signs of Teen Heroin Abuse

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says that there are a number of different physical issues that can affect a teen who is actively abusing heroin. While under the influence, your son may exhibit:

  • Flushed skin
  • Dry mouth
  • Difficulty communicating or following a conversation
  • “Nodding out” or acting extremely drowsy
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Itchy skin
  • Slowed or shallow breathing

Chronic issues related to heroin abuse are serious, especially if your son is using needles to inject heroin. He risks:

  • Contracting HIV or hepatitis C
  • Collapsed veins
  • Abscesses
  • Blood infections and infections affecting the heart
  • Rheumatologic issues
  • Heroin addiction

Heroin addiction is of primary concern because it can take relatively few uses of heroin to develop a physical dependence that produces withdrawal symptoms when your teen is without the drug for any period of time. Withdrawal symptoms are collectively described as an intense, flu-like illness and can include symptoms like:

  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach cramps and diarrhea
  • Chills as well as goosebumps
  • Restless legs

Interpersonal Signs of Teen Heroin Abuse

Social issues that are problematic for your teen in combination with the above emotional and physical issues can also indicate a heroin abuse issue. In some cases, interpersonal issues like bullying, divorce, the passing of a close friend or loved one, or social problems at school can be a catalyst for heroin abuse. Your son may be attempting to deal with the emotional pain, social awkwardness, or discomfort he feels by getting high.

In other cases, heroin abuse can be the cause of these social problems. For example, your son may lose friends who don’t want to use drugs with him or don’t want to be around it. It can also cause interpersonal issues at school, at home, and at work when the effects of chronic drug use negatively impact his ability to maintain commitments, follow rules and participate.

When You See the Signs of Heroin Abuse in Your Teen

Your first reaction to the idea that your child is abusing heroin may be horror, followed by an attempt to downplay the possible harm or deny the evidence that he is abusing drugs. No parent wants to believe that their child is using heroin; the drug is deadly and toxic, and overdose is a daily threat. However, disbelieving the signs or attempting to downplay the significance of heroin abuse only serves to endanger your child when he is without the treatment he needs to stop using drugs of all kinds immediately.

As an article published in the journal Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience points out, educating yourself on the signs of possible drug abuse in your teen is the first step. The next – and necessary – step is to provide them with the early intervention and treatment that will enhance their chances of a successful recovery. Contact us at Muir Wood today to talk about the issues your son is facing and find out more about how our in-depth treatment programs can help them heal.