Parent Testimonials Video

Effects Of Heroin Abuse

Heroin is an extremely addictive drug made from a plant known as the opium poppy. It belongs to the group of drugs called opioids. Other drugs in this group include opium, codeine, morphine, pethidine, oxycodone, methadone, and buprenorphine.

Heroin and other opiate drugs are known as depressants. They don't necessarily make a person feel depressed, but rather slow down the central nervous system's activity as well as messages transmitted between the body and the brain.

Alcohol, cannabis, GHB, and benzodiazepines are depressant drugs as well.
Heroin is known by other names such as "dope", "smack", "skag", "junk", "black tar", "china white", "dragon", "elephant", and "poison", just to mention a few.

Heroin may look like fine white powder or off-white granules or brown pieces of "rock". It tastes bitter and has no smell. It is usually packaged in foils, as in aluminum foils, or in small color balloons.

How is heroin taken?

Heroin can be smoked, injected, snorted or sniffed. These methods of administration all deliver the drug quickly to the brain. Injecting is where a needle is used to administer heroin directly into one's bloodstream. Snorting involves inhaling the drug in powder form through the nose and into the bloodstream via the nasal tissues. Smoking is the inhalation of the smoke from heroin into the lungs. Each of these methods of heroin administration can cause very serious health problems and addiction.

What are the effects of heroin use?

The effects of all drugs, heroin included, can vary from one person to another. How the drug affects a person is dependent on a number of things including their weight, size, and health, in addition to whether the person is taking other drugs at the same time or if he/she is used to the drug.

The effects of all drugs are also determined by the amount taken. Therefore, it becomes very difficult to judge because the strength or quality of illegal drugs can differ so much from batch to batch.
There is no level of drug use that is safe. Use of any drugs always has some risks-even medicines may cause adverse side effects. Thus, it is important to exercise caution when using any kind of drug.

Immediate effects of heroin use

Depending on how it is administered, heroin effects can be felt within 7 or 8 seconds when injected or within 10 or 15 minutes when smoked or snorted/sniffed. Heroin effects can last up to 3-5 hours.

Effects of low/moderate heroin intake

The following effects may be experienced when one takes heroin:

  • Feelings of deep pleasure
  • Powerful feelings of wellbeing
  • Lowered cough reflex
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Reduced sexual urges
  • Pain relief
  • Dry mouth
  • Reduced coordination
  • Slurred or slowed speech
  • Constricted pupils
  • Decreased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Slow breathing rate
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Reduced appetite

Effects of higher heroin doses

Taking a high heroin dose can cause an overdose. It means that someone has taken a large amount of heroin that their body cannot cope with.
A heroin overdose increases in risk if the purity or strength of the drug is unknown. The risk of heroin overdose is also increased when it is injected as huge amounts get into the bloodstream before travelling quickly to the brain.

High heroin doses can intensify some effects. A person may also experience the following:

  • Impaired concentration
  • Falling sleep
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slow and shallow breathing
  • Increased itching and sweating
  • Urge to urinate but difficulties with doing so
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Reduction in body temperature
  • Unconsciousness
  • Death

Coming down symptoms

A person coming down as a result of heroin intake may feel irritable when the drug gets out of the body. They can also feel depressed as they come down.

Long-term effects of heroin

  • Heroin has long-term effects on your health including:
  • Dependence
  • Constipation
  • Infertility or irregular menstruation in women
  • Intense sadness
  • Loss of libido in men
  • Tetanus
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Damage to the brain, heart, lungs, and liver

Other long-term effects caused by heroin depend on how it is taken:

Repeated snorting can damage the nasal lining
Injecting the same place frequently can cause scarring, abscesses, vein damage, and inflammation
Injecting can also cause infections of the heart, skin, and lung
The additives and impurities in heroin can cause vein damage if injected. This may also lead to thrombosis.

Other effects of using heroin

Heroin use with other drugs

The effects of taking heroin along with other drugs such as prescription medications, alcohol, and over-the-counter medications often causes unpredictable results.

Taking heroin with other depressants such as benzodiazepines or alcohol can increase the effects of depression and may lead to an increase in the risk of coma, respiratory depression and death.

When heroin is combined with stimulant drugs like amphetamines, it places your body under severe stress.

Heroin use in pregnancy and breastfeeding

Most drugs taken by mothers may affect the fetus or get into breast milk.

Heroin intake during pregnancy can increase the risk of pregnancy problems such as miscarriage or early labor, meaning that underweight babies are born. Thus, heroin should not be taken by pregnant or nursing mothers as it can affect the fetus.

Heroin and driving

It is risky to drive if one has taken heroin. Its effects such as reduced coordination or drowsiness can affect the ability to drive. The symptoms of withdrawal or coming down can also affect the ability to safely drive.

Effects of heroin at the workplace

Under the law, it is the responsibility of all employees to make sure that they keep an eye on the safety of their fellow co-workers. Heroin effects such as confusion and drowsiness can affect one's capacity to work effectively and safely. This can also be affected by withdrawal and coming down symptoms.

Prevention and reduction of harm

Sharing of needles, syringes as well as other injecting equipment may significantly increase the chances of contracting blood-borne viruses like hepatitis B and C, and HIV-the virus that leads to AIDS.

It is important to remember that sharing of needles and syringes is very dangerous for anybody taking heroin or other injected drugs. Since the drug causes enough problems, it is advised that you don't compound them.