The UK’s Hidden Heroin Addicts

At The Lighthouse, we feel it is important to raise awareness around the fact that addiction presents in very different forms. Stereotypical heroin addicts are portrayed as being unable to work, hold down a relationship, care for their children or have any means of making money other than through criminality. Whilst this is certainly true for some, it is not true for all.

When you envisage a heroin addict you are most likely to conjure up some image that fits with society and the general media’s portrayal. The image that comes to mind is quite possibly of an individual who has lost everything, including their career, health, family, looks and dignity.

The reality is that heroin addiction does indeed affect many in this way but there are also numerous heroin addicts that are hidden from society. These heroin addicts are high functioning addicts and controversially challenge society’s perception of what a heroin addict should be.

Yes, Functioning Heroin Addicts Do Exist

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we treat all kinds of heroin addicts at our clinic, regardless of how far down the scale they have gone.

Heroin is an extremely powerful class A illegal narcotic. It’s effects are characterised by drowsiness, sleepiness and nodding in and out of consciousness. Naturally, this would make you question whether functioning on such an intoxicating drug would be possible. We can assure you that it is possible and that hiding an addiction becomes second nature to the sufferer, who will go to great lengths to keep it secret from others.

Heroin affects different people in different ways. Whilst it may well send one user into a state of oblivion, it can send another user into a euphoric but highly functional state.

The amount of heroin used, it’s purity and/or strength and how it is administered, all impact on the effects it produces.

Help is available

We treat heroin addicts in our drug rehab, who are still able to function at a high level, heroin addicts who have lost all ability to function other than to seek and take the drug, and heroin addicts who fall somewhere on the scale in between.

Functioning heroin addicts are not individuals that use occasionally. To have an addiction to a substance there has to be a level of dependence and loss of control, whether that be physical, mental or more commonly both.

Heroin is one of the most highly addictive drugs available and those that become addicted end up using more and more just to achieve the same initial effects, or to keep heroin withdrawal symptoms at bay.

A functioning heroin addict is likely to use just enough heroin to stave off withdrawal symptoms at times when they are required to function or commit. They may or may not use larger amounts for a more potent effect outside of these hours.

Much like a high functioning alcoholic they keep themselves regularly topped up with smaller amounts of the substance. Regardless of how they are using or how much, the fact remains that they “have” to use; they have lost the power of choice and the ability to quit heroin on their own

What A High Functioning Heroin Addict Looks Like

A high functioning heroin addict is someone who to the outside world appears to coping with life pretty well. Sometimes too well. They may have a job that they are able to time keep and perform and appear successful. Their appearance may look well groomed and taken care of. They may get their children to school on time who are presentable and well nourished. Perhaps even their bank balance is healthy so they have a host of friends and frequently socialise. Outwardly, there may be no visible signs that they are suffering from a potentially fatal addiction to heroin. So if this is the case why would they need or consider professional help?

What’s important to comprehend about addiction is that the person who suffers will very much live a double life. One life they present to the world, the other they indulge behind closed doors when no one else is around. Scratch beneath the surface of any high functioning alcoholic or addict and the truth is often all too visible. There is usually at least one area of their life that is consequently being affected, whether that be their health, their personal relationships, their emotional stability or their finances.

If you are concerned that someone close to you may be using heroin and have an addiction, there are some telling signs that are hard to hide on a continuous basis.

Signs and Symptoms of a High Functioning Drug Addict

If someone you love is displaying any of the following signs and symptoms it is important to encourage them to seek help for their heroin addiction:

  • Their appearance has changed noticeably over a relatively short period of time and without explanation
  • Looking drawn and tired with greyish sallow skin
  • Pinprick pupils {heroin causes the pupils to constrict)
  • They may be difficult to engage in conversation and withdraw socially
  • Track marks or abscesses on the arms (a sign of an injecting heroin user)
  • Sooty residue on their fingers and on items they have touched (applies to those that smoke heroin)
  • Slurred, slowed or delayed speech and response
  • Emotionally inappropriate or shows no emotions at all
  • They live a secret life – making and taking calls out of earshot, leaving at short notice, disappearing without prior explanation or warning
  • They have heroin paraphernalia in their possession
  • Becoming unreliable and difficult to get hold of outside of “office” hours
  • They are unwell most mornings
  • Change in behaviours and attitude that they dismiss or justify
  • Losing interest in things they used to enjoy such as socialising with friends and hobbies or sports.

The US has a similar story to the UK in terms of hidden heroin addicts. This Youtube offers a great insight into the new face of heroin addiction.

The Dangers of a High Functioning Heroin Addict

The biggest danger, as with all addictions is that help is not sought soon enough. As a result of this they may die a drug addicts death from unintentional or intentional overdose.

By presenting as high functioning they are used to covering up the truth with a web of lies. It is quite likely that they are lying to themselves by thinking that they are in control of their addiction.

The longer a heroin addiction goes untreated the bigger the associated risks. Whether to mental, physical, emotional, financial or social health.

Do High Functioning Drug Addicts Need Rehab Treatment?

The problem with a high functioning drug addict is that they give the impression they still have a certain amount of control and will argue that they cannot be an addict as they are still able to work etc. Persuading an addict that they need help when they have not lost all as a result of their addiction can be challenging to say the least.

Most addicts will have a degree of functionality at some point in their addiction. This is usually before it spirals out of control and they end up losing everything. This is the progressive nature of addiction.

Drug rehab can be very beneficial for a high functioning heroin addict. They will undergo a full medical detox to help them stop the drug. In addition, they will also undergo evidence-based treatments that are proven to help prevent relapse.

If you or a loved one are looking for an affordable professional heroin detox clinic or rehab centre, please call Step by Step Recovery today or complete and return our online assessment form.

You do not have to lose everything as a result of addiction. You can choose to turn your life around at any point.