Heroin Side Effects

The side effects of using heroin can cover quite a range, from physical problems to social behaviors. The amazing thing is that these heroin addiction side effects can take over in the life of an addict without them even noticing. This is due to one of the main side effects of heroin, which is the rush of euphoria that lures people into using heroin to begin with. Were it not for this side effect, no one would bother much with heroin, and the other side effects of heroin use would not arise. But of course people do seek out this ultimate rush of pleasure, and thus end up suffering all sorts of other side effects from heroin as well. Of course the side effects of heroin go far beyond the physical. One of the side effects that heroin causes is a rapid tolerance and physical dependence. In combination with heroin's euphoric effects, and almost immediate addiction potential, these side effects cause many heroin users extreme difficulties when they attempt to curtail use of the drug on their own. It is for this reason that long term drug treatment is advised for the most optimal results in recovering from heroin addiction.

Heroin users also suffer from the psychological side effects of heroin, starting with rapidly shifting the priorities of their life differently. They quickly separate the world into two groups of people: those they are using heroin with, and those that they do not. You can imagine how heroin addiction alters their relationships and how they spend their time. Thus the use of the heroin can have a huge social impact on people as well. The addict may find themselves hanging out with a crowd that they normally would not associate with. This can lead them to another side effect of the addiction that they probably did not count on in the beginning, no longer being an individual that is guided by a moral compass. An individual abusing heroin may quit their job and lose their home and think very little of it while they are blinded by the effects of heroin. When money and their drug supply becomes a problem, the addict may also start to engage in illegal behavior in order to get more money for heroin. They may steal from family, friends, and loved ones or from their place of business in order to get more money to feed their heroin habit.

Side effects from the medical consequences of chronic heroin abuse include scarred and collapsed veins, bacterial infections of the blood vessels and heart valves, abscesses (boils) and other soft-tissue infections, and liver or kidney disease. Lung complications (including various types of pneumonia and tuberculosis) may result from the poor health condition of the abuser as well as from heroin's depressing effects on respiration. Many of the additives in street heroin may include substances that do not readily dissolve and result in clogging the blood vessels that lead to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain. This can cause infection or even death of small patches of cells in vital organs. Immune reactions to these or other contaminants can cause other heroin side effects such as chronic medical problems. Because many heroin addicts often share needles and other injection equipment, they are at a special risk of contracting HIV and other infectious diseases. Infection of drug users that inject heroin often spread the virus by reusing syringes with other individuals. Of almost one-third of Americans infected with the HIV virus, injection drug use is a risk factor. Another negative side effect of heroin addiction is that it can cause serious complications during pregnancy.

Physical dependence from using heroin develops with higher doses of the drug. With physical dependence, the body adapts to the presence of heroin and withdrawal symptoms occur if use is reduced abruptly. Withdrawal from heroin may occur within a few hours after the last time the drug is taken. Symptoms of heroin withdrawal include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps ("cold turkey"), and leg movements. Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 24 and 48 hours after the last dose of heroin and usually subside after about a week

The worst possible side effect of heroin abuse is the possibility of overdose. It is easy to overdose on heroin, but not so easy to figure out exactly how much heroin is "too much." The level of heroin required to cause an overdose depends on the person, how long they have been taking the drug, how much of the drug is already in their system and the purity of the drug. Even if a person takes heroin at the same dose for months or even years, they still risk the side effect of an overdose, because there is no possible way to determine the purity and strength of the heroin. Especially at risk for the side effect of an overdose are new users. Individuals using heroin for the first time can suffer from an overdose after consuming or injecting even the smallest amount of heroin. Much of this has to do with the purity of the heroin being taken, since many street dealers will dilute their product with other chemicals. This can lead to unpredictable side-effects, both from the differing levels of heroin, as well as the (usually toxic) chemicals that are added. One of the major chemicals used to dilute heroin is called quinine, and it is thought that many overdose deaths are caused by this chemical.

Most heroin addicts don't really notice the heroin side effects until they run out of the drug and cannot get any more. This is when their body goes into heroin withdrawal and sends them into a nasty, flu-like state of misery that can best be fixed by feeding the body more heroin. While the degenerative side effects from prolonged heroin use might be easy to overlook, the acute misery of the side effects of heroin withdrawal is something that no heroin addict can ignore or overcome on their own. Thus the cycle of addiction continues so that they can avoid these debilitating heroin withdrawal symptoms. The only escape a heroin addict has from these dire consequences is to seek treatment and abandon the drug completely. Without drug treatment, this vicious cycle could continue indefinitely. To avoid overdose and to finally put an end to the heroin addiction, supporting the addict in obtaining drug treatment is the most loving action that can be taken by loved ones.



  • The effects of heroin set in very quickly, when being used.

  • Individuals who withdrawal from heroin may feel like they have the flu, which is a symptom of withdrawal.

  • 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.

  • 1% of the senior high school population admitted injecting heroin at least once within their life time.

  • Junk, dragon, dope and Mr. Brownstone are a few common street names for heroin.

  • Pulmonary problems are one of the effects of heroin use.

  • Tolerance to heroin occurs over regular use.

  • There is an estimate of 150,000 new heroin users each year.

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