Effects of Heroin
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Heroin Abuse Effects

Heroin Abuse EffectsHeroin abuse effects take place quickly. This drug works by depressing the user's central nervous system. It does this by depressing nerve transmission in sensory pathways of the spinal cord and brain that signal pain. This explains why heroin is such an effective pain killer. Heroin abuse effects also inhibit the user's brain center that controls coughing and breathing.

Heroin is a highly addictive drug. Heroin abuse effects quickly produce tolerance and dependence in those who use it. Although heroin is even more effective as a painkiller than morphine and codeine, it is an illegal drug because it is so highly addictive.

Short Term Heroin Abuse Effects

  • Analgesia (reduced pain)
  • Brief euphoria (the "rush" or feeling of well-being)
  • Death due to overdose - often the exact purity and content of the drug is not known to the user. An overdose can cause respiration problems and coma
  • Hypothermia
  • Nausea
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Reduced coughing
  • Reduced respiration; breathing difficulties
  • Sedation, drowsiness

Soon after injection (or inhalation), heroin abuse effects cross the blood-brain barrier. In the brain, heroin is converted to morphine and binds rapidly to opioid receptors. Abusers typically report feeling a surge of pleasurable sensation, a "rush." The intensity of the rush is a function of how much drug is taken and how rapidly the drug enters the brain and binds to the natural opioid receptors. Heroin is particularly addictive because it enters the brain so rapidly. With heroin, the rush is usually accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth, and a heavy feeling in the extremities, which may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and severe itching.

After the initial heroin abuse effects, abusers usually will be drowsy for several hours. Mental function is clouded by heroin abuse effects on the central nervous system. Cardiac function slows. Breathing is also severely slowed, sometimes to the point of death. Heroin overdose is a particular risk on the street, where the amount and purity of the drug cannot be accurately known.

Long Term Heroin Abuse Effects
One of the most detrimental long-term heroin abuse effects is drug addiction. Addiction is a characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, and by the neurochemical and molecular change in the user's brain. Heroin also produces profound degrees of tolerance and physical dependence, which are also powerful motivating factors for compulsive use and abuse. As with abusers of any addictive drug, heroin abusers gradually spend more and more time and energy obtaining and using the drug. Once they are addicted, the heroin abusers' primary purpose in life becomes seeking and using drugs. The drugs literally change their brains.

Other Heroin Abuse Effects:

  • HIV/AIDS - due to sharing of needles
  • Poisoning - from the addition of toxin to the drug
  • Hepatitis - liver damage
  • Skin infections - from repeated intravenous injections
  • Other bacterial and viral infections
  • Increase risk of stroke
  • Collapsed veins
  • Lung infections

Medical consequences of chronic heroin abuse include scarred and/or collapsed veins, bacterial infections of the blood vessels and heart valves, abscesses (boils) and other soft-tissue infections, and liver or kidney disease. Additional heroin abuse effects such as lung complications (including various types of pneumonia and tuberculosis) may result from the poor health condition of the abuser as well as from heroin's depressing effects on respiration. Many of the additives in street heroin may include substances that do not readily dissolve and result in clogging the blood vessels that lead to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain. These heroin abuse effects can cause infection or even death of small patches of cells in vital organs. Immune reactions to these or other contaminants can cause arthritis or other rheumatologic problems.

Effects of Heroin
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