A heroin addict is addicted to the heroin both mentally and physically. The user not only craves the drug to feel good, but needs it to avoid withdrawal. This becomes a double edged sword for those individuals who try to end their dependence to the drug. During the three decades that heroin use was legal in the United States, heroin abuse occurred throughout the country and affected people of both sexes and of all social classes and races. When heroin was made illegal in 1924, however, abuse of the drug became most prevalent in the inner cities.
As a result, heroin abuse faded from the view of mainstream America, and addiction stopped being considered a problem that could affect nearly anyone. Instead, the drug would come to be dismissed by most Americans as something that could affect only the inner-city poor. However, during the 1960s and again in the 1990s, heroin abuse rose among the wealthy and the middle class. Heroin's renewed widespread popularity served as a reminder to American society that heroin abuse is a problem that does not discriminate along lines of socioeconomic standing, race, or age.
In the beginning, the heroin user will typically experiment just once or twice a week and in some cases less often, perhaps once a month or less. When a user is in the beginning stages of direct injection into a vein [mainlining], the most accessible veins are generally used. These are the veins located in the inner portion of the arm, near the elbow joint. This injection site is commonly called "the ditch" by users. If the person is mainlining, you may see scabs on the vein around this portion of the arm.
When someone becomes a heroin addict, they lose interest in their daily activities and find that their time is filled with using heroin or focused on obtaining more heroin. As their use progresses, addicts find that their tolerance continues to increase. This causes them to ingest more and more heroin to achieve the rush or high that they are looking for. As with other drugs of addiction, heroin addicts have trouble keeping their jobs and maintaining personal relationships. As their use becomes a priority in their lives their bank accounts begin to dwindle. It is not unusual for a heroin addict to spend upwards of $100-$200 dollars a day to feed their addiction.
At the early stages, there may be few signs of heroin addiction. At this point you would probably notice the injection sites. As the user progresses from experimentation to becoming a heroin addict, they will eventually reach a point where they shoot up at least once a day. At this point, several injection sites become noticeable. For example, over a 6 month period, the user will have shot up at least 180 times. This is when the needle marks manifest themselves as "tracks." Tracks are trails of tiny scabs that may extend 1-3 inches or more down the arm or leg in a straight line right over top of the vein.
Signs of a heroin addict include but are not limited to: