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Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants grown in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. Heroin can be a white or brown powder, or a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin. People inject, sniff, snort, or smoke heroin. Some people mix heroin with crack cocaine, a practice called speedballing. Heroin enters the brain rapidly and binds to opioid receptors on cells located in many areas, especially those involved in feelings of pain and pleasure and in controlling heart rate, sleeping, and breathing.
Research suggests that misuse of these drugs may open the door to heroin use. Data from showed that an estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids switch to heroin and about 80 percent of people who used heroin first misused prescription opioids. In a study of those entering treatment for opioid use disorder, approximately one-third reported heroin as the first opioid they used regularly to get high.
This suggests that prescription opioid misuse is just one factor leading to heroin use. People who use heroin report feeling a "rush" a surge of pleasure, or euphoria. However, there are other common effects, including:. These diseases are transmitted through contact with blood or other bodily fluids, which can occur when sharing needles or other injection drug use equipment.
HCV is the most common bloodborne infection in the Unites States. HIV and less often HCV can also be contracted during unprotected sex, which drug use makes more likely. about the connection between heroin and these diseases in our Heroin Research Report. Heroin often contains additives, such as sugar, starch, or powdered milk, that can clog blood vessels leading to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain, causing permanent damage.
Also, sharing drug injection equipment and having impaired judgment from drug use can increase the risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis see "Injection Drug Use, HIV, and Hepatitis". Yes, a person can overdose on heroin. A heroin overdose occurs when a person uses enough of the drug to produce a life-threatening reaction or death.
Heroin overdoses have increased in recent years. When people overdose on heroin, their breathing often slows or stops. This can decrease the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain, a condition called hypoxia. Hypoxia can have short- and long-term mental effects and effects on the nervous system, including coma and permanent brain damage. Naloxone is a medicine that can treat an opioid overdose when given right away. It works by rapidly binding to opioid receptors and blocking the effects of heroin and other opioid drugs. Friends, family, and others in the community can use the nasal spray versions of naloxone to save someone who is overdosing.
The rising of opioid overdose deaths has led to an increase in public health efforts to make naloxone available to at-risk persons and their families, as well as first responders and others in the community. Heroin is highly addictive.
A substance use disorder SUD is when continued use of the drug causes issues, such as health problems and failure to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home. An SUD can range from mild to severe, the most severe form being addiction. Those who are addicted to heroin and stop using the drug abruptly may have severe withdrawal.
Withdrawal symptoms—which can begin as early as a few hours after the drug was last taken—include:. Researchers are studying the long-term effects of opioid addiction on the brain. A range of treatments including medicines and behavioral therapies are effective in helping people stop heroin use. There are medicines being developed to help with the withdrawal process. The FDA approved lofexidine, a non-opioid medicine deed to reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms.
Medicines to help people stop using heroin include buprenorphine and methadone. They work by binding to the same opioid receptors in the brain as heroin, but more weakly, reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Another treatment is naltrexone, which blocks opioid receptors and prevents opioid drugs from having an effect. Because full detoxification is necessary for treatment with naloxone, initiating treatment among active users was difficult, but once detoxification was complete, both medications had similar effectiveness.
Behavioral therapies for heroin addiction include methods called cognitive-behavioral therapy and contingency management. Contingency management provides motivational incentives, such as vouchers or small cash rewards for positive behaviors such as staying drug-free. These behavioral treatment approaches are especially effective when used along with medicines.
This publication is available for your use and may be reproduced in its entirety without permission from NIDA. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. Drug Topics. More Drug Topics. About NIDA. Heroin DrugFacts. What is heroin? Points to Remember Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of various opium poppy plants.
Some people mix heroin with crack cocaine, called speedballing. People who use heroin report feeling a "rush" or euphoria. Other common effects include dry mouth, heavy feelings in the arms and legs, and clouded mental functioning.
Long-term effects may include collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, and lung complications. Research suggests that misuse of prescription opioid pain medicine is a risk factor for starting heroin use. A person can overdose on heroin. Naloxone is a medicine that can treat a heroin overdose when given right away, though more than one dose may be needed.
Heroin can lead to addiction, a form of substance use disorder. Withdrawal symptoms include severe muscle and bone pain, sleep problems, diarrhea and vomiting, and severe heroin cravings. However, treatment plans should be individualized to meet the needs of the patient. JuneHeroine is a
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