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The Effects of Heroin Use

As a derivative of morphine-a naturally occurring product of the poppy plant- heroin has plenty of negative consequences. For one thing, street drugs have no quality assurance; you have no idea what might be mixed in with them. At the same time, heroin is powerfully addictive. Frequent users understand what the heroin high is like and are always ready to recreate the sensation. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, heroin is the most abused drug in its class. Users who inject the drug are at an increased risk of several communicable diseases including HIV and hepatitis.

Heroin Effect Quiz question 1

If you or someone you know is abusing heroin, it’s not too late to seek help. Professional operators are available any time of the day at 1-800-943-0566, ready to connect you with resources to help you kick the habit. Rehabilitation facilities and detox centers across the country welcome new patients every day. These facilities specialize in providing the tools and knowledge to foster a healthier lifestyle in a safe and comfortable environment.

Heroin Effect Quiz question 2

Short-Term Effects of Heroin

The immediate effect of being high on heroin is described as a rush, an intense feeling of pleasure. This occurs because the drug passes into the brain very quickly. The skin may feel warm, and the user may experience a heavy feeling in the arms and legs. After the rush subsides, users often feel drowsy and uncoordinated for several hours.

As a short-term effect, heroin also dulls pain, and similar drugs such as morphine are very effective medications for severe and chronic pain. The active components of heroin bind to certain nerve receptors in the brain, preventing the transmission of pain signals. Some users view their use of heroin as a form of self-medication, but the negative effects are too serious for this to be a wise choice.


Heroin Effect Quiz question 3

Side Effects

Not all side effects of heroin are pleasant. Sometimes the initial rush can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting or itching. Even worse, taking too much of the drug at once can result in depressed breathing, a slow heart rate and unconsciousness. A heroin overdose is a potentially fatal event if not treated quickly. Fortunately, there are effective medical remedies for a heroin overdose. A quick injection of adrenaline will counteract the depressant effects of the drug, speeding up the heart and returning respiration rates to normal.

Heroin Effect Quiz question 4

Long-Term Effects of Heroin

Addiction is the primary long-term effect of heroin abuse. The longer you use heroin, the stronger the addiction becomes. A true addict has one purpose in life-to acquire more of the drug. Other responsibilities, such as work and family, fall by the wayside.

Users who inject heroin often suffer from collapsed veins, bruising, bacterial infections, arthritis and serious infectious diseases like AIDS. These users are often injecting themselves with dirty shared needles. The rush experienced from intravenous drug use is significantly more powerful than other methods of ingestion, which explains its popularity.

With addiction comes tolerance and dependence. Tolerance to heroin means that over time, more of the drug is required to reach the same level of euphoria. Dependence often coexists with tolerance, but they are not the same thing. The Cleveland Clinic explains that dependence means a person’s body has adapted to the drug. Removing the drug will create a series of withdrawal symptoms.

Heroin Effect Quiz question 5

Heroin Dependency

Like all opiate drugs, heroin leads to dependency in users who have maintained the habit for long enough. If someone dependent on heroin suddenly stops taking the drug, he will experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. These include body aches, muscle aches, nausea, insomnia, restlessness, cold flashes and leg twitches. These symptoms usually peak within two days of the last dose of heroin disappear completely within a week. While not fun, heroin withdrawal is not a dangerous medical condition. The symptoms, however, often compel a user to keep using rather than experience withdrawal. For more information on how to help someone addicted to Heroin, give us a call.

Heroin Effect Quiz question 6

Heroin Withdrawal Treatment

Treatment for heroin addiction and heroin withdrawal begins with admitting that there’s a problem. Rehab and recovery requires a serious commitment to get healthy. Once that commitment is made, treatment is not that difficult-and the rewards are immense. A life without heroin is an attainable goal, no matter how strong your addiction is.

A heroin rehab center offers a safe and welcome environment in which to overcome the initial withdrawal symptoms. Certain medications can ease the body aches or nausea normally associated with heroin withdrawal.

Natural remedies, including a healthy diet and exercise, can also smooth out the bumps of detox and withdrawal. Long-term recovery, however, calls for a different approach, one centered on mental wellbeing more so than physical.

Sustained recovery from heroin addiction requires a strong social network. This includes both individual and group therapy sessions with fellow recovering addicts. A licensed therapist or psychiatrist can help identify the reasons for heroin abuse and suggest steps to take to prevent relapse. Being honest with friends and family about your struggles is another way to safeguard a healthy future.

There’s no reason to keep struggling with heroin abuse. There is a treatment center close by, ready to welcome you. Help is available, right now, no matter where you are in your life’s journey. Simply pick up the phone and call 1-800-943-0566 to start rediscovering a healthy, fulfilling life-a life of satisfaction and sobriety, without heroin.

Physical and mental effects of heroin

  • Surge or rush of euphoria
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Warm, flushed skin
  • Respiratory depression

Lasting health effects of heroin

  • Injection is associated with HIV infection and hepatitis C
  • Collapsed veins
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Constipation and cramping
  • Breathing issues or pneumonia

Effects of heroin overdose

  • Slowed breathing
  • Blue lips and fingernails from oxygen deprivation
  • Convulsions
  • Clammy skin
  • Coma
  • Death

Effects of heroin withdrawal

  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Feeling of coldness and goosebumps
  • Severe craving for heroin

Drug effects

Yearly deaths linked to heroin use

United States

Number of opioid users receiving treatment

Heroin-related emergency room visits

United States

Heroin-related treatment facility admissions

United States

2002-2012, aged 12+

Number of opioid users who have survived an overdose

Typical legal penalties involving heroin

  • Heroin is a Schedule I substance in the United States, and is illegal. (source)
  • Trafficking in 100 to 999 grams of heroin comes with a federal first offense penalty of no less than 5 years in prison, and up to $5 million in fines. A second offense penalty, or a first offense with 1 kilogram or more of heroin, carries a sentence of no less than 10 years in prison.
  • Possession of heroin can come with a federal first offense penalty of one year in prison, and a state penalty of up to 7 years. (source)

Legislation and policymaking involving heroin

  • Kentucky has proposed legislation to charge heroin traffickers with homicide. (source)

Legislation to reduce overdose deaths

* Only if person has received training
† Only applies to 1st responders
‡ In Utah and Indiana, evidence of providing assistance to someone experiencing an overdose can be presented as a mitigating factor at sentencing to a conviction for possession of a controlled substance and/or paraphernalia. Utah allows evidence of providing assistance to someone experiencing an overdose to be used as an affirmative defense to an allegation of possession of a controlled substance and/or paraphernalia.
Controlled Substance/Paraphernalia Possession Protections (22‡ states & DC)
Lay Administration Criminal Liability Protections (23 states & DC)
Lay Administration Civil Liability Protections (20 states & DC)
Prescriber Criminal Liability Protections (14 states)
Prescriber Civil Liability Protections (13 states)
Allows Third Party Prescriptions (24 states)

Mugshots of heroin-related arrests

Number of opioid overdose prevention programs using naloxone

  • 188 in the United States (2010) (source)

Number of opioid overdoses reversed using naloxone

  • 10,171 in the United States (1996-2010) (source)

Videos on heroin

Quotes from heroin addicts

  • “I live in real fear that I'll relapse, and being so much older now, there's no way I'd survive this time around.” (source)
  • “My father died from addiction, we lost a cousin, I myself had numerous overdoses and helped prevent siblings from OD-ing…”
  • “Recovery from heroin addiction is almost a miracle. Because it is not only your body that screams for the substance. Your brain wants it too. Without heroin, emotional pain feels unbearable.”

Need Help Understanding Your Addiction Treatment Options? Call 1-800-943-0566.

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  • How is heroin most commonly administered?
  • What plant is heroine derived from?
  • Which is not a short-term side effect of heroin use?
  • How is a heroin overdose treated?
  • What are the effects of heroin abuse?
  • If someone is dependent on heroin and abruptly stops taking it, what happens?
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