Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the opium poppy found in Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. Heroin can be a white or brown powder, or a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin making it possible to smoke, snort or inject it into the veins for a “high.”

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. Heroin is highly addictive. People who regularly use heroin often develop a tolerance, which means that they need higher and/or more frequent doses of the drug to get the desired effects. 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.

Commonly Known As: H, horse, hell dust, and smack.

Symptoms

Heroin is a cheap drug on the street but a very powerful one. It causes instant euphoria followed by a slowing down of the body’s heart rate and breathing. It is also a powerful pain blocker and mood elevator which is why it is often used in self-treatment by those with co-occurring disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder and ADHD.

While prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, also are made from the poppy plant, heroin is far more dangerous as it is cut with a variety of unknown ingredients such as the powerful painkiller fentanyl. Since 2010, the U.S. heroin overdose death rate rose nearly 400%.

Withdrawal symptoms — which can begin as early as a few hours after the drug was last taken—include: restlessness, severe muscle and bone pain, sleep problems, diarrhea and vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps (“cold turkey”), uncontrollable leg movements (“kicking the habit”), severe heroin cravings.

People who use heroin over the long term may develop:

  • insomnia
  • collapsed veins for people who inject the drug
  • damaged tissue inside the nose for people who sniff or snort it
  • infection of the heart lining and valves
  • abscesses (swollen tissue filled with pus)
  • constipation and stomach cramping
  • liver and kidney disease
  • lung complications, including pneumonia
  • mental disorders such as depression and antisocial
  • personality disorder
  • sexual dysfunction for men
  • irregular menstrual cycles for women

SV Recovery has a successful track record in helping addicts, alcoholics and those with co-occurring disorders achieve a clean and sober life. We look forward to helping you and your family members.