Heroin Addiction Health Conditions

Heroin addiction health conditions are severe. Discover how heroin affects the body and where to seek treatment for heroin addiction.

Heroin Addiction Health Conditions

Heroin Addiction Health Conditions

Heroin addiction health conditions are severe. Discover how heroin affects the body and where to seek treatment for heroin addiction.

Table of Contents

What Is Heroin?

Heroin is an opioid drug derived from morphine, a substance from the opium poppy plant seed with psychoactive effects. Poppy plants are usually found and grown in Asia, Mexico, and Columbia. Heroin commonly comes in a white or brown powder or a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin.

Unlike its prescription opiate counterpart (morphine), which is often used for medical purposes, heroin is banned in many countries. In addition, despite its many adverse health effects, heroin is still one of the most implicated substances of abuse in global drug abuse occurrences. In 2019, over 745,000 people in America used heroin. This article looks at what heroin addiction is and how it affects the functioning of various organs in the body.

What Is Heroin Addiction?

Heroin addiction refers to the strong dependence on and active, compulsive misuse of heroin despite its negative impacts and side effects. Heroin addiction is considered a medical condition, as it affects and alters the brain and body. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with alcohol addiction are two times more likely to form a heroin addiction, people with marijuana addiction are three times more likely, people with cocaine addiction are fifteen times more likely, and people with prescription opioid addiction are forty times more likely to become addicted to heroin.2

What Are Heroin Addiction Health Conditions?

Heroin addiction health conditions refer to the issues that arise as a result of compulsive heroin use and abuse, which causes health issues that may lead to certain drawbacks and impediments in an individual’s life. Understanding what heroin addiction is, how dangerous it is, and how exactly it affects the brain and the body is an important step in reducing the prevalence of heroin addiction, overdose, and death. 

How Does Heroin Addiction Affect the Body?

Heroin addiction affects the body in numerous ways, as it causes both short-term effects and long-term effects. These heroin addiction effects affect and interfere with normal bodily functions. The short- and long-term effects of heroin on organs in the body are described briefly below: 


Heroin abuse can affect the brain in three major ways. They include:


Heroin addiction significantly affects neurotransmitter functioning in the brain. This usually happens due to poor dopamine level regulation in the brain due to the high heroin levels, thereby causing a reduction in optimum impulse control.

Brain Damage

Brain damage from heroin abuse is a very real possibility. This is because heroin addiction can obstruct the body’s airways, leading to hypoxia (low oxygen supply received in the brain) and increasing the rate of brain damage. In addition, heroin abuse has been discovered to cause toxic leukoencephalopathy.3


Heroin addiction health conditions often include several cardiovascular problems. These cardiovascular effects generally occur as a result of the continuous supply of toxin contaminants by the drug to the cardiovascular system, contaminating the heart and inhibiting normal functioning. Some cardiovascular effects of heroin abuse include the following:


This is a long-term side effect of heroin abuse. Heroin-induced bradycardia causes a major reduction in normal heart rate function. Hence, difficulty in day-to-day performance is likely to occur frequently.


Endocarditis is an infection in the heart’s valves resulting from intravenous administration of heroin.


Heroin abuse also affects the heart by widening blood vessels, causing a sudden decrease in blood pressure circulation.


Smoking or snorting heroin usually leads to the development of several lung diseases. Some of these include:

Emphysema and Pulmonary Edema

Studies have shown that inhaling heroin can cause acute wheezing and emphysema, and injecting heroin can cause acute pulmonary edema.4


This is a respiratory disease that can be caused by heroin addiction, and it significantly affects the pathway of airflow in and through the lungs.

Acute Asthma

Heroin causes severe acute asthma that is very difficult to manage with medication and other forms of treatment.

Lung Damage

Long-term heroin abuse also causes severe lung damage, resulting in pneumonia.


In addition to its negative effects on the brain and the lungs, heroin abuse affects several internal organs, such as the liver and kidneys.

Kidney and Liver Diseases

Persistent heroin abuse causes clogging of the blood vessels that supply the kidneys and liver with much-needed nutrients. This will, in turn, lead to stroke or cause organ failure.


Heroin abuse affects the stomach in two different ways:

Chronic Constipation

Heroin causes bowel obstruction, leading to chronic constipation. Once this occurs, a subsequent large intake of drugs or any other substance could result in vomiting.

Perforations and Ulcers

Extended heroin abuse usually results in perforations of the stomach and wounds (ulcers). These perforations and ulcers are accompanied by severe abdominal pain.


Heroin abuse also affects the skeletal system. 


Osteoporosis is caused due to the lack of sufficient intake of adequate minerals for the bone, such as calcium and phosphor. Because heroin addiction is commonly associated with poor nutrition, osteoporosis and bone loss are more likely to occur in those who abuse heroin.


Heroin abuse can cause ulcers and infections of the skin. 


Infections and ulcers are usually the results of damaged tissues caused by injecting heroin with a needle. Skin infection may involve effects like itching and certain infections like abscesses.

Immune System

Heroin can affect the immune system, making the body more prone to diseases and infections.

Suppressed Immune System

Heroin acts as an immunosuppressant, which can inhibit the normal functioning of the immune system, such as white blood cells fighting against diseases. Hence, this gives room for more infections to enter the body. Also, a decreased level of optimum cell formation occurs, making it impossible to guard against diseases.

Autoimmune Disorders

As a result of long-term heroin use, the immune response and normal functioning are altered, preventing the body from performing correctly. Thus, the system is exposed to more infections and is more susceptible to developing autoimmune disorders.

Treatment for Heroin Addiction

Heroin Addiction Health Conditions

Effective treatment options for heroin addiction usually involve medical interventions tailor-made for individual patients to ensure optimum outcomes. These treatment options could include medication-assisted therapy (MAT), group therapy, and individual therapy and counseling sessions.


Heroin addiction withdrawal occurs as a result of a reduction in drug concentrations during detoxification. Heroin withdrawal is usually accompanied by several withdrawal effects ranging from mild to severe. Generally, the severity of the withdrawal symptoms observed or experienced depends on the duration of heroin abuse and the amount of heroin consumed during that period. Examples of heroin withdrawal effects include:

  • Lack of Sleep
  • Seizures
  • Pain in the muscles and bones
  • Immune-related problems
  • Constipation

Get Treatment for Heroin Addiction at Arrow Passage Recovery

Are you currently dealing with heroin addiction and heroin addiction health conditions and looking for a treatment to help you successfully kick heroin addiction? Get all the help and quality medical intervention you need at Arrow Passage Recovery! At Arrow Passage Recovery, you will have access to customized treatment plans to meet your treatment needs.

We offer a number of programs you can choose from that meet your meets. Our treatment programs include:

  • Residential treatment
  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP)
  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP)
  • Outpatient treatment (OP)
  • Treatment aftercare

We are here to help and support you throughout the entire treatment journey and during recovery. Reach out today, and let us help you rid your life of heroin for good.

Questions About Addiction
or Mental Health?


Call Us Now:

Your call is confidential with no obligation required to speak with us.

You have Successfully Subscribed!