Heroin Addiction

Learn about heroin addiction and its effects on the body. 

Heroin Addiction

Heroin Addiction

Learn about heroin addiction and its effects on the body. 

Table of Contents

What Is Heroin?

Heroin is an opioid drug made from the naturally occurring substance known as morphine, which can be found in the seeds of opium poppy plants grown in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. The drug is typically a powder of white or brown color or a sticky, tar-like substance that is black or brown.

Heroin is used by snorting, smoking, or injecting the substance. Some users will mix heroin with crack cocaine, referred to as “speedballing.” It is not uncommon for heroin to be laced with other harmful substances.

Heroin is an innately dangerous and illegal substance, and consuming it can manifest into not only a dependency or addiction, but via dangerous side effects on the mind and body. It is important to know the risk factors involved in the occurrence of heroin addiction in order to mitigate them and provide quality treatment options for both you or affected loved ones.

Why Are More People Using Heroin?

There are many theories surrounding the uptick in heroin addiction, but one of the leading causes of heroin addiction is an addiction to opioid prescription medications. If a person is prescribed opioids or heroin medication, they’re likely to begin abusing heroin if their access to opioid medications decreases or cuts off.2

What Happens to Your Brain When You Use Heroin?

When you use heroin, the opioid receptors in your brain become bound to the heroin substance. Heroin consumption can lead to the brain’s opioid receptors only receiving opioids from an external source, which can damage your brain’s ability to create natural opioids on its own. If this occurs, a person may experience depression or anxiety.

What Happens to Your Body When You Use Heroin?

When you use heroin, your body may feel relaxed, calm, and free of pain. This happens because of the opioid receptor activation happening in the brain when the substance is consumed. Over time, the heroin effects on the body can be severely damaging, leading to issues such as collapsed veins, hepatitis, arthritis, kidney disease, and more. 

Heroin Addiction Effects

The effects that heroin addiction can have on the body are essential to know when diagnosing issues related to heroin abuse. The signs of heroin addiction can be seen within the short- and long-term effects the drug has on the body and brain.

Heroin Addiction

Short-Term Effects of Heroin

Here are some short-term effects that can arise with heroin addiction:

Temporary Euphoria

A person consuming heroin will at first experience a euphoric high. These feelings of euphoria and pleasure can last from three to five hours. Heroin addict behavior can include seeming very content and relaxed after consumption and may even seem to be in a state of bliss.3

Arms and Legs That Feel Heavy

Another sign of heroin use is arms and legs that feel heavy. A person moving slowly and lacking energy may be abusing heroin. These symptoms can last for several hours after heroin has been consumed.

Upset Stomach and Vomiting

Upset stomach and vomiting are common signs of heroin addiction. This happens because of the intense chemical change the body is experiencing. A common way for the body to get rid of toxins or unknown substances is to eliminate them by vomiting.

A Fuzzy Brain

Experiencing a fuzzy brain and the inability to think clearly is a short-term effect of heroin addiction. A person addicted to heroin may experience mental effects of heroin such as trouble with decision-making and memory loss.

Long-Term Effects of Heroin

Here are some long-term effects that can arise after a person becomes addicted to heroin.

Collapsed Veins

A person who consumes heroin by injecting it is likely to experience collapsed veins with long-term heroin use. Injecting heroin intravenously can damage the veins, especially if the person injects in the same vein frequently. 


Heroin addiction can lead to long-term struggles with insomnia. When a person is craving the drug or experiencing heroin withdrawal, they will often have difficulty sleeping due to the discomfort they are experiencing.

Infections of Your Heart Lining and Valves

Long-term heroin addiction can lead to infections of your heart lining and valve. Heroin users who frequently inject the substance increase their risk of damage to heart tissues and infections that can lead to complications in heart function.

Liver and Kidney Disease

Liver and kidney disease are common long-term effects of heroin addiction. This happens because heroin users who inject the drug expose themselves to harmful bacteria that can infect the blood, leading to kidney and liver disease.

Mental Disorders

In some cases, there can be long-term psychological effects from heroin addiction, such as the development of mental disorders. Heroin addiction can cause panic disorders, depression, anxiety, and personality disorders.

Heroin Addiction and Withdrawal

Heroin Addiction

A person experiencing heroin addiction may suffer from adverse withdrawal symptoms when heroin consumption has ceased. Heroin overdose and severe withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous and potentially deadly, so it’s essential to know how to recognize the signs and seek medical attention immediately. 

Heroin Overdose

A heroin overdose is a body’s negative response to overconsumption of heroin. Overdose symptoms include slow breathing, body limpness, blue fingertips, vomiting, choking, and loss of consciousness.4 When experiencing an overdose, a person should seek medical attention immediately, as a heroin overdose is hazardous and potentially fatal.

Withdrawal Symptoms

When a person addicted to heroin quits consuming the substance, they’ll experience adverse withdrawal symptoms as the body begins to crave the drug. Here are some symptoms that signify withdrawal.

Vomiting and Diarrhea

It’s common to experience vomiting and diarrhea for up to a week after heroin consumption is discontinued. A person going through withdrawal may feel nauseous and have trouble keeping food down until the withdrawal symptoms have decreased. 

Bone and Muscle Pain

Bone and muscle pain are common symptoms of heroin withdrawal. This happens because the opioid pain receptors can become dysfunctional after a person becomes addicted to heroin.

Trouble Sleeping

When a person is experiencing withdrawal from heroin, they may have trouble sleeping for several weeks due to the intense cravings. The other uncomfortable symptoms associated with withdrawal may also cause insomnia.


Having jitters or tremors is a common symptom experienced during heroin withdrawal. This rhythmic, uncontrollable shaking motion is caused by the body’s intense cravings for heroin.4

Heroin Addiction Treatment

There are many risks of heroin use, and it’s essential to seek treatment for heroin addiction.

Treatment for heroin addiction is available for people suffering from heroin addiction or withdrawal. When seeking help for heroin addiction, a person may undergo detox, therapy, and medication-driven treatment to overcome the adverse withdrawal symptoms. 

Medications are often used to alleviate symptoms for people who have experienced severe heroin addiction and have entered an inpatient treatment program. A person can either undergo inpatient or outpatient treatment for heroin addiction, but inpatient treatment is highly recommended in severe cases that require detox. 

Recovery with Arrow Passage

You do not have to face the recovery process alone. Our team at Arrow Passage Recovery is standing by to help you start your healing journey. At Arrow Passage Recovery, we offer a variety of services including detox, rehabilitation care, and more. Contact us today to learn more.

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