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Heroin: Effects, Signs and Symptoms

Understanding Heroin

Also known as: Smack, Horse, Mud, Brown Sugar, Junk, Black Tar, Big H, Dope, Skag

Know the Signs:

  • Withdrawal from friends and family; spends more time with new friends.
  • Stealing or borrowing money from loved ones, or unexplained absence of valuables.
  • Wearing long pants or long sleeves to hide needle marks, even in very warm weather.
  • Poor performance in school or work.
  • Decreasing attention to hygiene and physical appearance.

A heroin high generally lasts between 4-5 hours. Users experience a euphoric "rush," warming of the skin, dry mouth and a feeling of heaviness in the extremities.

Effects of HeroinLong-Term Effects of Heroin Abuse

The long-term effects of heroin abuse invade one's emotional health. As dependency worsens, people lose the ability to handle stress or make decisions without the "support" from a heroin high. Job loss financial ruin, relationship problems and arrest for crimes committed to feed the addiction are not uncommon. After repeated exposure, heroin users develop tolerance, which means they must increase their dose to achieve the desired high. Once tolerance develops, users no longer experience the heroin high they once did. Oftentimes, abusers with tolerance continue using it to simply feel normal and avoid the discomfort of withdrawal.

Physical Signs and Symptoms of Heroin Abuse

  • Shallow breathing and shortness of breath.
  • Clouded mental functioning.
  • Uncontrollable feelings of itching.
  • Constricted pupils.
  • Substantial increase in time spent sleeping.
  • Increase in slurred or incoherent speech.

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