What is Heroin?
Heroin can get you high fast and get you hooked fast. And each time you use, it's a lethal game of Russian roulette: infection, overdose and death are just some of the possible outcomes1.

Heroin is an opiate and a highly addictive drug. It's produced from morphine, a naturally occurring substance that comes from the seedpod of the Asian poppy plant. People abuse heroin by injecting, snorting or smoking it. All three ways can cause the same level of addiction, as well as serious health problems1.

Common Types and Street Names
Smack, horse, brown sugar, dope, H, junk, skag, skunk, white horse, China white, Mexican black tar1

How is it taken?
Heroin can be injected, snorted/sniffed, or smoked—routes of administration that rapidly deliver the drug to the brain. All three methods of administering heroin can lead to addiction and other severe health problems2.

The Risks
Heroin enters the brain very quickly. This effect makes it very addictive. And each time you use heroin, the more you need to get high. One of the greatest risks with this drug is how extremely easy it is to become dependent. It's estimated that almost one-fourth of the people who try heroin become addicted.

It's nearly impossible to know the actual strength or purity of heroin because it's often combined with toxic ingredients. This is one of the reasons why using heroin always carries the risk of infection, overdose and death. Also, heroin often has additives that will not dissolve in the bloodstream. This can easily cause a blood clot to form and travel to the lungs, liver, heart or brain, which is instantly fatal1.

Short Term Effects of Heroin

  • Euphoria
  • Nodding off (alternately alert and drowsy state)
  • Dry mouth
  • Severe itching
  • Constricted Pupils
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Slowed mental function
  • Reduced physical pain
  • Warm flushed skin
  • Weakness in muscles
  • Slowed breathing
  • Overdose and/or death3

Long Term effects of Heroin

  • Infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis
  • Collapsed veins
  • Infection of the heart lining and valves, pulmonary complications
  • Abscesses
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Spontaneous abortion2

With regular heroin use, tolerance develops, in which the user’s physiological (and psychological) response to the drug decreases, and more heroin is needed to achieve the same intensity of effect. Heroin users are at high risk for addiction—it is estimated that about 23 percent of individuals who use heroin become dependent on it2.

These symptoms—which can begin as early as a few hours after the last drug administration—can include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea and vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps (“cold turkey”), and kicking movements (“kicking the habit”). Users also experience severe craving for the drug during withdrawal, which can precipitate continued abuse and/or relapse. Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose of the drug and typically subside after about 1 week. Some individuals, however, may show persistent withdrawal symptoms for months. Sudden withdrawal by heavily dependent users who are in poor health is occasionally fatal. In addition, heroin craving can persist years after drug cessation, particularly upon exposure to triggers such as stress or people, places, and things associated with drug use2.

One of the most detrimental long-term effects of heroin is the addiction itself. As the degree of the heroin addiction increases, behaviors such as lying, cheating, stealing, missing work, financial problems, and legal issues all become very evident long-term side effects that become very destructive to the addicts life as well as for everyone associated to the heroin addict. The longer the addiction continues, the worse the long-term effects of heroin use become. 

Long-term effects of heroin become apparent as the heroin addiction continues and tolerance builds. Since heroin is a highly addictive drug, it can lead to serious medical complications and health problems3.


  1. Above the Influence
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse
  3. Heroin Addiction
  4. Coalition Against Drug Abuse