Heroin Overdose Awareness

Heroin is an illegal, highly addictive opioid drug. Abuse of heroin, along with prescription opioids, has seen a dramatic rise in recent years. Here are signs to look for if you suspect someone you know is using heroin:

Objects to look for:

  • Needles and syringes
  • Burned spoons
  • Burned aluminum foil/gum wrappers
  • Burned straws
  • Missing shoelaces, headbands, or belts (used to tie off veins)
  • Small bags containing a white, powdery residue
  • Water pipes or broken pens

Physical signs to look for:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Constricted (“pinpoint”) pupils
  • Sudden changes in actions and behavior
  • Hyperalertness mixed with suddenly nodding off
  • A “droopy” look, with heavy-looking limbs

Longer-term physical signs:

  • Weight loss
  • Unexplained runny nose
  • Needle marks on arms
  • Infections or abscesses at injection sites
  • Cuts, bruises or scabs from skin picking

Behavioral signs to watch for:

  • Lying and deception
  • Sleeping much more than in the past
  • Slurred, garbled or incoherent speech
  • Sudden worsening of school/work performance
  • Repeated borrowing or stealing of money
  • Unexplained disappearance of valuables
  • Wearing long pants and long sleeves in warm weather to conceal needle marks (however, users sometimes inject between the toes)
  • Spending less time with family and more time with new friends who don’t seem a natural fit
  • Loss of motivation and decreased interest in goals

What is Naloxone?

Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a medication that can reverse an overdose that is caused by an opioid drug (i.e., prescription pain medication or heroin). When administered during an overdose, naloxone blocks the effects of opioids on the brain and restores breathing within two to eight minutes.

Naloxone has been used safely by emergency medical professionals for more than 40 years and has only one function: to reverse the effects of opioids on the brain and respiratory system in order to prevent death. Naloxone has no potential for abuse.

To obtain a naloxone kit, contact your pharmacy. First Responders and others interested in obtaining naloxone may contact the Erie County Office of Drug and Alcohol Abuse for assistance.