Get help today 888-744-0069 or sign up for 24/7 text support.
American Addiction Centers National Rehabs Directory

Heroin Facts—Because Knowing Is Half the Battle

“Smack” – “Junk” – “H”

Heroin is a drug that goes by many names but, no matter what you call it, it’s still the same potent, potentially deadly drug.

While its name really isn’t that important, knowing some basic facts about heroin can be both life-saving and crucial. With that in mind, let’s go over five heroin fundamentals:

#1   From Pretty Flowers to Deadly Heroin

Don’t let the beauty of the poppy flowers fool you, heroin is made from the opium poppy flower. These flowers thrive in warm, dry climates and are often grown by farmers in areas such as Mexico, China, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Farmers collect the sap and deliver it to a broker who then takes the opium to a morphine refinery. Heroin is 2 to 3 times stronger than morphine, it is classified as a Schedule I Drug and it has no medical use.

#2   Identifying the Forms of Heroin

In its pure form, heroin is a white, bitter-tasting powder. Dealers “cut” the pure heroin with substances like sugar, starch, powdered milk or other drugs; so there’s more product to go around—and more money to be made. Once cut, the powder takes on a brown or off-white color. “Black tar” is another form of heroin and—as the name implies—it is dark brown or black in color. It tends to be sticky like tar or hard like coal.

#3   Heroin is More Popular Than Ever Before

Over the past decade, heroin use has grown by leaps and bounds. It’s now being abused in both big cities and in hundreds of tiny, remote towns scattered across this nation. Need some proof? Check out these statistics:

  • Heroin use has more than doubled among young adults (18-25 years).
  • The number of heroin-related deaths increased 6-fold between 2001 and 2014.
  • In 2014, heroin use caused more than 10,000 deaths by overdose. That same year, 586,000 Americans had developed a substance use disorder involving heroin.
  • Heroin-related deaths increased in groups across the board. Fatalities spiked among men and women, people of all ages, and among whites, blacks and Hispanics.

#4   What’s Heroin’s Appeal?

Heroin produces a short-term euphoric effect, binding to opioid receptors in the brain and depressing the central nervous system. After the initial euphoria, heroin produces a drowsy state.

Since heroin’s an opioid, it produces effects similar to prescription painkillers. The rise of heroin abuse is directly related to painkiller addiction. In fact, doctors wrote 259 million narcotic painkiller prescriptions in 2012 alone. Once the doctor cuts off access to prescriptions or buying pills off the street gets too expensive, heroin becomes a much cheaper option. In fact, a 2014 survey revealed that 94% of people in rehab turned to heroin because prescription pills were “far more expensive and harder to obtain.”

#5   Side Effects of Using Heroin

Heroin drastically impacts the body and produces some pretty devastating physical, emotional and psychological effects. If you suspect a loved one might be abusing heroin, look for the following signs:

  • Drowsiness
    Heroin produces a state of drowsiness that typically lasts for several hours. It’s accompanied by mental sluggishness, slurred speech, confusion and excessive yawning. This drifting state is often referred to as “nodding off.”
  • Anti-Social Behavior
    When desperate for a fix, heroin users often resort to illegal activities as a means to pay for the drug. Statistics show theft is common, as is borrowing money, prostitution and burglary.
  • Personality Changes
    People who are hooked on heroin can often be aggressive and anxious. They tend to isolate themselves or seek out the company of other addicts. Drastic changes in personality often manifest as the first visible indicators of drug use.

How to Find Help for Heroin Misuse

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance misuse, help is available and recovery is possible. Professional drug treatment can start anyone battling a heroin dependency on the path to a healthier and happier life. To learn more about treatment options, contact a caring admissions navigator with American Addiction Centers (AAC) for free at . You can also check your insurance coverage online now.

Levels of Care in Drug Addiction Treatment

Recommended Heroin Rehabilitation-Related Articles

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.