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Posted: September 4, 2020
Updated: February 11, 2021

What You’ll Learn In This Substance Abuse Resource

Heroin is an extremely potent drug that is highly addictive, and people can easily overdose on it. The drug can cause extreme harm to a person’s body, and in the case of an overdose, can lead to death. Because it’s one of the most potent and most addictive drugs in the article that follows, you’ll learn what it’s used for, how people know it in the medical world, and what are the street names for it as well as what forms it can be found in.

We’re also going to discuss the most common use of the drug and the many effects and side-effects it has on a person as well as the signs and symptoms a person shows when they are abusing Heroin.

Understanding Heroin

Heroin is an extremely powerful drug that is made from morphine. It’s one of the most addictive opioid drugs in the world. The compound is derived from the seed of various opium poppy plants that usually grow in South East Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. Heroin looks like a powder that can be either brown or white and rarely comes in the form of black powder.

The most common use is by injecting it directly into the bloodstream and it immediately gives a rush of euphoric feelings.

What other names does Heroin go by?

  • Primary Name: Heroin
  • Scientific Name(s): Diacetylmorphine, Diamorphine, 3.6-Diacetylmorphine, Acetomorphine
  • Street Name(s): Smack, H, Black tar, Horse, Junk, Hell Dust, Big H, Brown Sugar, Thunder, Nose Drops, Skag, Dope

What forms does Heroin come in?

The most common form of Heroin is powder, and depending on where it comes from, and it can be a different color. The color ranges between brown and sometimes it’s brownish-white while very rarely it’s black. Although it comes in powder, users often mix it with water to make it injectable because it’s the fastest way to get the heroin high.

How Do People Consume Heroin?

Heroin is available in a few different forms and can be administered in various ways. The most common use and the fastest acting one is by injecting it directly into the bloodstream, in which case it acts in a matter of seconds. The injection doesn’t have to be in the bloodstream, it can also be injected into the muscle and skin. Another way a person can take Heroin is by smoking it or snorting it in its powdered form.

  • Injection – mixed in with water and injected into the veins
  • Snorting – when it is in a powdered form similar to cocaine
  • Smoking – when it’s heating up on a tin foil and the smoke coming out of it is being inhaled.

The Dangers + Effects of Heroin

Heroin is an extremely potent and addictive drug that can be very harmful to a person’s health. It acts quickly once it enters the system and links itself with the opioid receptors on our cell throughout our entire body. It mainly binds to the receptors of pain and pleasure, as well as the ones that are in control of our breathing, heart rate, and sleeping.

The short-term effects that can be expected once a person takes Heroin include warm flushing of the skin, nausea, vomiting, severe itching, clouded mental functionality, dry mouth, and heavy feelings in the legs and arms.

When it’s used over a longer period the effects and dangers that might be expected include insomnia, collapsed veins, damaged tissue in the nose, heart lining infections, swollen tissue filled with pus, constipation, cramping, liver and kidney disease, pneumonia and lung problems, sexual dysfunction, and so on.

Signs + Symptoms of Heroin Abuse 

Symptoms of Codeine Abuse are hard to detect, as each individual uses and abuses the drug in different quantities. Below we breakdown the list of common symptoms and signs, varying from moderate abuse to severe.

Physical Symptoms

  • Sleepy Eyes
  • Slow Breathing
  • Flushed Skin
  • Runny Nose
  • Tiny Pupils
  • Sleepiness
  • Nodding Off

Environmental Signs

  • Tiny Bags
  • Burnt Spoons
  • Small Glass Pipes
  • Rubber Tubing
  • Syringes
  • Dark Sticky Residue
  • White Powder Residue


  • Scratching
  • Slurred speech
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Grooming Neglect
  • Wearing Long Sleeves
  • Refusing to Eat

Overdosing on Heroin

People who use Heroin have a very high chance of overdosing on it because it’s a very potent drug, which makes it very easy. It occurs when a person takes a higher quantity of the drug than their body can handle, which is turns into a dangerous situation that is life-threatening and may result in death. An opiate overdose is usually followed by a slowed breathing or a complete stop of it which makes it very harmful to our body because it leads to hypoxia which means that our brain isn’t getting the oxygen it needs to function properly.

The signs that most often show when a person overdoses on Heroin include disorientation, blue nails, and lips, delirium, muscle spasticity, low blood pressure, weak pulse, coma, drowsiness, constricted pupils, difficulty breathing or not breathing at all.

Who is impacted by Heroin Addiction?

The group that is impacted the most and under the most risk of abusing Heroin is constantly changing. Back in 1960, the most impacted group that abused Heroin were young men but starting from 1980, the group that is most at risk were older people.

The ones that are the most likely to abuse heroin are people who are already addicted to painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone because Heroin provides them with a cheaper and faster high to get rid of the pain.

Drug Testing or Detection

The amount of time this drug stays in your system will depend on a few different factors, including your size, weight, frequency of drug use, dose, and duration of use, impaired kidney or liver functionality. All of the above will affect the amount of time the drug will stay in your system but usually in a urine test, a person can test positive up to 3 days after they last used the drug.

The hair tests available for Heroin can detect traces of it up to 3 months after the last use, while blood tests can detect the presence of it up to 6 hours after last use. The saliva test can detect the presence of Heroin for up to 24 hours.

Heroin Abuse Statistics, Laws, Punishments

  • 169,000 people tried Heroin in 2013: As many as 169,000 people tried Heroin only in 2013 and of those about 82,000 were 26 years old or older.
  • The number doubled between 2002-2013: The number of people who abused Heroin between the ages of 18-25 has doubled. 
  • Cocaine abusers are 15 times more at risk to turn to Heroin: People who are already abusing cocaine are about 15 times more likely to turn to heroin abuse too. 

Laws + Punishments

The classification of this drug is A which makes it extremely illegal for people to have it, give it away, or sell it. If a person possesses this drug they can get up to 7 years of prison time, an enormous fine or both at once. If a person is selling Heroin they can end up with a life sentence in prison, an enormous fine, or both.

If a person is caught driving under the influence, they will surely get an enormous fine but it may also result in a driving ban or a prison sentence. If a police officer catches someone who is selling Heroin in a club, home, bar, or hostel they might take legal action against the landlord of the establishment or anyone who is connected to managing the place.