Heroin Effects

Heroin is a highly addictive drug processed from morphine and sold commonly as a white, brownish, or brown powder or a black sticky substance. It is the fastest acting opiate, and also the most commonly abused one, whose users suffer from heroine withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop the drug. Heroin is a central nervous system depressant that relieves pain and induces sleep. Heroin's effects can produce a dreamlike state of warmth and well-being. Heroin effects may also cause constricted pupils, nausea, and respiratory depression, which in its extremes can result in death. Heroin can cause effects to regions of the brain that produce euphoric sensations and regions that produce physical dependence hence its notorious ability to produce both psychological and physical addiction.As with most illegal drugs, heroin use has both short-term and long-term effects. Whether injected, snorted or smoked, heroin will begin to affect the body's central nervous system almost immediately after it is used.

Shortly after using, a feeling of euphoria will come over users, in which they have a warm flushing of the skin, a dry mouth and the feeling of having "heavy" arms and legs. After the initial rush, users will go into an alternately wakeful and drowsy state sometimes called "on the nod." Short term effects of heroin use can also include nausea and vomiting. Because heroin suppresses the central nervous system, the user experiences "cloudy" mental function. Users will begin to breathe at a slower rate and their breathing can reach a point of respiratory failure. By far the most significant hopefully short term effect of heroin addiction is the negative consequences in the relationships previously valued by the addict. Heroin addiction is so strong, that an addict will literally steal anything from anyone to get the next fix.

It is estimated that 40% to 80% of prostitutes are committing these acts to support a heroin or crack cocaine addiction. There is a strong relationship between substance abuse and prostitution. One third of women addicts support their habit by working as prostitutes. This is where the economic theory is linked; women prostitute themselves for money intended for the purpose of drugs. A study of female street addicts found that 96% of the daily users resorted to not only prostitution but other crime to feed their addiction. As one prostitute stated, she would never get into a stranger's car when she is sober, but when she is high, she will do anything for money for her next hit. She is currently incarcerated for putting a syringe to a taxi driver's neck and telling him that if he didn't give her his money, she would poke him with the AIDS infected needle.

Repeated and chronic heroin users who fail to use sterile technique or share equipment will begin to experience the long-term effects such as addiction, collapsed veins, serious blood and bacterial infections such as Hepatitis B and C, bacterial infections, serious rheumatologic problems and permanent damage to vital organs. The most serious long term affects include:

  • Infection of the heart lining and valves, normally due to lack of sterile technique. Liver disease - approximately 70-80% of new hepatitis C infections in the U.S. each year are the result of injection drug use, and even sharing snorting straws has been linked to hepatitis transmission.
  • Kidney disease.
  • Pulmonary complications, which are often infection related
  • Skin infections and abscesses, especially among chronic injectors who suffer scarred or collapsed veins.

In addition to the risk of contracting the hepatitis virus, heroin users also have an increased risk of catching human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other blood-borne viruses. The most serious health effect of heroin use is the possibility of death due to accidental overdose. Because heroin is an illegal drug and can be handled and cut (mixed with other ingredients) by various suppliers before it reaches street-level users, those who use the drug never know how potent or pure the heroin they are using is until they use it. Heroin is often mixed with sugar, starch, quinine, and sometimes, strychnine or other poisons, adding other potential dangers. Because of the unknown strength and actual contents of the heroin they are taking, users are at a great risk of overdose and death.

When people addicted to heroin try to stop using they can experience extreme withdrawal symptoms. The symptoms can include:

  • Insatiable craving for the drug
  • depression
  • muscle and bone pain
  • insomnia
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • cold sweat
  • goose bumps
  • involuntary kicking movements
  • dilated pupils
  • watery eyes
  • runny nose
  • excessive, repeated yawning
  • loss of appetite
  • tremors
  • panic
  • restlessness
  • muscle cramps
  • shallow breathing
  • convulsions
  • Increased heart rate
  • elevation in pulse
  • elevated temperature
  • sharp elevation in blood pressure
  • arrhythmia
  • stroke
  • heart attack
  • coma
  • suicidal tendencies

Most of the heroin withdrawal symptoms are generally the worst at around 48 to 72 hours after the cessation of doses and ease after a week or so. After completing the heroin withdrawal process, a long term residential treatment program should be completed for the best possible outcome.

Sign of heroin overdose may include shallow breathing, pinpoint pupils, bluish skin, slowed breathing, seizures, weak pulse, reduced blood pressure, and other symptoms. Unfortunately, many of these symptoms can also be identical in heroin abuse, and it is almost impossible to tell the difference .More than any other drug that is abused, heroin, has by far the highest incidence of deadly overdoses. For this reason alone, if an individual is addicted to the drug, caring loved ones should intervene without delay. Working out the details of obtaining drug treatment for the addict will always be much easier than possibly planning the loved one's funeral. Enabling an individual's heroin use can be a deadly deed that can result in guilt and grief. Encouraging a loved one to seek drug treatment and supporting them in doing so can will likely result in relief and much joy, as the individual is given the opportunity to be free from heroin addiction.



  • A common symptom of using heroin is arms and legs feeling heavy and rubbery.

  • The age of first time heroin users has gotten increasingly lower, with more than 80% of them under the age of 26.

  • Tolerance to heroin occurs over regular use.

  • Big H, Boy, Capital H, China white and Chiva are some of the street names for heroin.

  • The painkilling effect is extended and magnified the more heroin is used which makes it so popular.

  • Florida and California by far have the most heroin seizures by law enforcement each year.

  • Individuals who have never used the so called .gate way drugs. are less likely to try heroin then others who have used .gate way drugs.

  • Heroin is produced from a poppy plant.

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