Heroin Drugs

Effects of Heroin Use, Addiction, and Overdose

What is Heroin?

Heroin (aka diacetylmorphine) is an extreemly addictive and harmful drug that has been an problem throughout the world for ages. Heroin is semi-synthetic opiod drug created by a synthesising proccess done to morphine(which is extracted from the opium poppy plant). Morphine and heroin have almost identical statistics in terms of addictive tendencies, the immediate effects a user experiences and physical damage done to the body and organs. The three most common methods that heroin is used are smoking, snorting and injecting. All of these routes of heroin use are harmful and habit forming. Heroin is a schedule I controlled substance in the United States and has severe punishment for its possession and trafficking. Possession of over 100 grams of heroin warrants a minimum prison sentence of 5 years.

Effects Classification: Euphoric Depressant; Analgesic
Heroin Street Names: Dope, Dragon, Junk, Smack, H, Tar, Brown, Black, Ska, Brown Sugar, Horse, Mud, Skag.
Chemical Name: Diacetylmorphine
Description: Heroin is a powerful opiate pain-killer that produces euphoria and blissful apathy. It is known for leading to addiction and difficult physical withdrawal symptoms.


Heroin Effects

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.

Short-Term Effects

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.” Because heroin suppresses the central nervous system, the user experiences “cloudy” mental function. They may experience a deminshed mental capacity and dulled emotions. Users will begin to breathe at a slower rate and their breathing can reach a point of respiratory failure. The effects of heroin lasts three to four hours after each dose has been administered.

Long-Term Effects

Brown Heroin

Repeated andchronic heroin users who fail to use sterile technique or share equipment will begin to experience the long-term effects of such practices:

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.

Signs of Heroin Use

Track MarksHeroin addiction signs include but are not limited to:

Smaller pupils (pinpoint pupils)

Needle Marks

Scars on Veins (Track Marks)

Blood stains on clothes

Slowed movements



Decrease in social behaviors

Less care taken with hygiene

Poor performance in school and/or at work

Drug Paraphernalia (Bent/Burnt spoons, small cotton balls, syringes, tourniquets)


Heroin Pictures

There are many health risks to using heroin. The short-term risks include fatal overdose and the high risk of infections such as HIV/AIDS. The long-term user has additional risks such as:

Collapsed veins

Infection of the heart lining and valves



Liver Disease

Pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia


Heroin Overdose

Heroin Overdose has claimed the lives of a great many people from all walks of life. An overdose means that a fatal amount of the drug has entered the body and needs immediate medical attention. With Heroin, overdose symptoms usually appear immediately after the the drug is taken causing the user to fall out and appear dead. or can cause respiratory depression which slows the users breathing and ultimately stops breathing without medical attention.

History of Heroin

Heroin, (an opium derivative) is unfortunately a very popular choice of drug in the American culture today. The drug didn’t just “show up” in the late 1960’s. Beginning in the late 1800’s opium was rather popular. They had opium dens scattered throughout the “wild west”. It arrived here via Chinese immigrants that came to work on the railroads. Instead of belling up to the bar drinking whiskey, the cowhand was in a prone position in a candle lit dim room smoking opium. It wasn’t uncommon for cowhands to spend several days & nights at the den eventually becoming physically addicted to the drug. However, at the time alcoholism was a bigger problem.

From the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s the reputable drug companies of the day began manufacturing over the counter drug kits. These kits contained a glass barreled hypodermic needle and vials of opiates (morphine or heroin) and/or cocaine packaged neatly in attractive, engraved, tin cases. Laudanum (opium in an alcohol base) was also a very popular elixir that was used to treat a variety of ills. Laudanum was administered to kids and adults alike – as freely as aspirin is used today.

Heroin, morphine, and other opiate derivatives were unregulated and sold legally in the United States until 1920 when Congress recognized the danger of these drugs and enacted the Dangerous Drug Act. This new law made over-the-counter purchase of these drugs illegal and deemed that their distribution be federally regulated. By the time this law was passed, however, it was already too late. A market for heroin in the U.S. had been created. By 1925 there were and estimated 200,000 heroin addicts in the country. It was a market which would persist until this day.


Supervised injectable heroin or injectable methadone versus optimised oral methadone as treatment for chronic heroin addicts in England after persistent failure in orthodox treatment (RIOTT): a randomised trial



Some heroin addicts persistently fail to benefit from conventional treatments. We aimed to compare the effectiveness of supervised injectable treatment with medicinal heroin (diamorphine or diacetylmorphine) or supervised injectable methadone versus optimised oral methadone for chronic heroin addiction.


In this multisite, open-label, randomised controlled trial, we enrolled chronic heroin addicts who were receiving conventional oral treatment (≥6 months), but continued to inject street heroin regularly (≥50% of days in preceding 3 months). Randomisation by minimisation was used to assign patients to receive supervised injectable methadone, supervised injectable heroin, or optimised oral methadone. Treatment was provided for 26 weeks in three supervised injecting clinics in England. Primary outcome was 50% or more of negative specimens for street heroin on weekly urinalysis during weeks 14—26. Primary analysis was by intention to treat; data were adjusted for centre, regular crack use at baseline, and treatment with optimised oral methadone at baseline. Percentages were calculated with Rubin’s rules and were then used to estimate numbers of patients in the multiple imputed samples. This study is registered, ISRCTN01338071.


Of 301 patients screened, 127 were enrolled and randomly allocated to receive injectable methadone (n=42 patients), injectable heroin (n=43), or oral methadone (n=42); all patients were included in the primary analysis. At 26 weeks, 80% (n=101) patients remained in assigned treatment: 81% (n=34) on injectable methadone, 88% (n=38) on injectable heroin, and 69% (n=29) on oral methadone. Patients on injectable heroin were significantly more likely to have achieved the primary outcome (72% [n=31]) than were those on oral methadone (27% [n=11], OR 7·42, 95% CI 2·69—20·46, p<0·0001; adjusted: 66% [n=28] vs 19% [n=8], 8·17, 2·88—23·16, p<0·0001), with number needed to treat of 2·17 (95% CI 1·60—3·97). For injectable methadone (39% [n=16]; adjusted: 30% [n=14]) versus oral methadone, the difference was not significant (OR 1·74, 95% CI 0·66—4·60, p=0·264; adjusted: 1·79, 0·67—4·82, p=0·249). For injectable heroin versus injectable methadone, a significant difference was recorded (4·26, 1·63—11·14, p=0·003; adjusted: 4·57, 1·71—12·19, p=0·002), but the study was not powered for this comparison. Differences were evident within the first 6 weeks of treatment.


Treatment with supervised injectable heroin leads to significantly lower use of street heroin than does supervised injectable methadone or optimised oral methadone. UK Government proposals should be rolled out to support the positive response that can be achieved with heroin maintenance treatment for previously unresponsive chronic heroin addicts.


Community Fund (Big Lottery) Research section, through Action on Addiction.