All You Need To Know About… Heroin

Below you will find our 8 point risk-rating system for Heroin. It will give you a brief overview of what Heroin is like, its characteristics and other important information. Further down the article, you will find more information about Heroin, its treatment options and other important aspects of Heroin.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Risk Of Becoming Addicted

Cocaine, similar to heroin can be extremely addictive. Even after just a few times or become psychologically addicted even sooner. That’s why we give this category 5/5 stars.


Rating: 3 out of 5.

Damage To physical Health

Long-term physical health damage from cocaine is possible, however following harm minimisation techniques, long-term damage can hopefully be minimised. That’s why we rate this category 3/5 stars.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Damage To Mental Health

The psychological dependence cocaine causes along with cravings for it is one of the main reasons cocaine destroys peoples lives. That’s why we give this category 5/5 stars.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

UK Availability

UK availability for cocaine is common, even more so with crack cocaine. That’s why we give this category 4/5 stars.


Rating: 3 out of 5.

Financial Cost?

If bought on a per bag basis, average bag weight being 0.1g is £10. If purchased in larger quantities, can be sold as “T’s” or “half T’s” meaning a T is a sixteenth or 1/16th of an ounce. A teenth weighing about 1.75g on average.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Severity Of Withdrawals?

Withdrawing from heroin can be extremely painful, with severe symptoms such as sweating, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle cramps, restless extremities and others. However, withdrawal from heroin isn’t fatal with most deaths occurring during withdrawals being caused by a secondary health condition.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Treatment Options Available?

Treatment options are widely available to those who want it. Access to MAT treatment, CBT, group/1-2-1 therapy, counselling along with certain non-traditional therapies such as acupuncture and meditation among others. However the user must be ready to engage with treatment and stick with it. However, the possibility to still use heroin or other opioids on top of MAT medication can see people fail in their attempts to become abstinent.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

Long-Term Recovery Success?

Addiction is a treatable disorder and can be arrested. 40% to 60% percent of people with an alcohol or drug addiction will relapse from the treatment plan in the first year with these figures slowly declining the longer the individual has maintained their abstinence or sobriety. Some users may “bounce” back and forth between active use and abstinence however this often occurs when effective treatments or recovery plans are not put in place or the person is not yet ready for recovery.

Overall Rating (Least-Worst):

Rating: 5 out of 5.

We have given heroin an overall risk-rating score of 5 stars out of 5. Heroin is a seriously addictive and dangerous drug to use. The associated physical damage to the user as well as the psychological and emotional damage that is caused to the individuals overall quality of life is poor in active use. Users often report that their mood, mental health and thoughts of self harm or suicide is worsened by using this drug. The long-term use of heroin can cause damage to veins, muscles, nerves and overall quality of the users circulation in those who inject, especially if the heroin is also injected with other drugs such as cocaine. Those who smoke it receive damage to their lungs, ability to breath and increase their risk of developing lung cancers among others. Users also often neglect simply daily tasks such as brushing your teeth or showering which can then also cause other person hygiene issues along with damage to teeth, infections at injection sites from unhygienic skin conditions. Users also often will commit crimes to fund their drug habits and neglect any personal or professional responsibilities to their family, friends or job, only focusing on procuring money for their drug, using their drug and continuing the cycle over and over again, each time ever worsening their situation.

The Heroin Withdrawal Timeline Chart

Find Out More Below
What Is It?

Heroin (say: HAIR-uh-win) The opioid family of drugs includes natural, synthetic and semi-synthetic opioids. Opiates, such as morphine and codeine, are natural opioids found in the opium poppy. Synthetic opioids, such as methadone, are chemically made. Heroin is a semi-synthetic opioid: it is made from morphine that has been chemically processed. It enters the brain quickly and produces a more immediate effect.
What Does It Look Like?

In its purest form, heroin is a fine white powder. But more often, it is found to be a sandy-grey or brown in colour. The colouring comes from additives which have been used to dilute it, which can include, but not limited to baking soda, sucrose (sugar), starch, crushed over-the-counter painkillers, talcum powder, powdered milk, laundry detergent or caffeine. Street heroin can be “cut” with strychnine or other poisons.

The various additives do not fully dissolve, and when they are injected into the body, can clog the blood vessels that lead to the lungs, kidneys or brain. This itself can lead to infection or destruction of vital organs. You cannot ever be sure exactly what you are injecting until it is too late. Just looking at it will not tell you exactly what other ingredients are mixed in with the heroin. All too often, these factors are ignored because the user is feeling unwell and wants to alleviate their withdrawal symptoms as quickly as possible or just simply want to disassociate themselves from their stresses and worries.
Sometimes Called (Also Known As):

horse, smack, big H, black, 8-ball or snowball (if heroin is mixed with crack cocaine and normally injected), junk, TNT, skag, H, gear, brown and others.
How Is It Used?

The most common ways of using heroin are:
– Injecting either into a vein (“mainlining,” intravenous or IV use), into a muscle (intramuscular or IM use) or under the skin (“skin-popping” or subcutaneous use)
– Snorting the powder through the nose (also called sniffing)
– Inhaling or smoking (“chasing the dragon”), which involves gently heating the heroin on aluminium foil and inhaling the smoke and vapours through a foil or plastic tube
How Long Does It Last?

If heroin is injected into a vein, the rush is felt in seven or eight seconds and lasts from 45 seconds to a few minutes. When it’s injected under the skin or into a muscle, the effect comes on slower, within five to eight minutes. Someone may be “on the nod” for up to an hour. Regardless of how it is used, the effects of heroin generally last for three to five hours, depending on the dose. People who use heroin daily must use every six to 12 hours to avoid symptoms of withdrawal.
What Does It Do to You?

When heroin is injected into a vein, it produces a surge of euphoria, or a “rush.” This feeling is not as intense when it is snorted or smoked. Following the rush, there is a period of sedation and tranquillity known as being “on the nod.”
New users often experience nausea and vomiting. The desired effects include detachment from physical and emotional pain and a feeling of well-being. Other effects include slowed breathing, pinpoint pupils, itchiness and sweating. Regular use results in constipation, loss of sexual interest and libido and irregular or missed periods in women.

The way heroin affects you depends on many factors, including:

– Your age

– How much you take and how often you take it

– How long you’ve been taking it

– The method you use to take the drug

– The environment you’re in

– Whether or not you have certain pre-existing medical or psychiatric conditions

– Whether you’ve taken any alcohol or other drugs (illegal, prescription,
over-the-counter or herbal)
What Are The Withdrawals Like?

Heroin withdrawal will not be the same for everyone.
The longer someone uses heroin, how it was used and how much was taken each time will all be factors in how dependent the brain and body are to the substance. Therefore, the severity and duration of withdrawal will differ as well. Someone with a history of mental illness or prior opioid withdrawal may have a more intense withdrawal experience.

Heroin is an opiate drug that suppresses some of the functions of the central nervous system, like heart rate, blood pressure, respiration and temperature regulation. It also binds to opioid receptors, increasing chemicals in the brain that are responsible for feelings of pleasure. When heroin is abused, a rush of pleasure also occurs. During withdrawal, the effects are the opposite of the intoxicating effects. For example, instead of euphoria, reduced heart rate, and sedation, the individual may experience low mood, anxiety, and rapid heart rate, among other symptoms (see below).
Withdrawal symptoms range in severity in accordance with the level of dependence and duration of use.

For someone who didn’t use heroin in massive doses for months or years, withdrawal may be more tempered and not last as long.

Mild withdrawal symptoms:
Abdominal cramps
Runny nose
Yawning a lot
Muscle and bone aches

Moderate withdrawal symptoms:
Trouble concentrating
Goose bumps

Severe withdrawal symptoms:
Rapid heart rate
Muscle spasms
Impaired respiration
Difficulty feeling pleasure
Drug cravings

Withdrawal from heroin isn’t generally considered life-threatening on its own; however, some of the medical and psychological symptoms may have complications that may become life-threatening.

Depression may lead someone to consider suicide, for example. If possible, follow the information given in the “Treatment Options” section for more information about quitting safely.
Is It Dangerous?

Heroin is dangerous for a number of reasons. The most immediate danger is overdose. In an opioid overdose, breathing slows down and may stop completely.
A person who has overdosed is unconscious and cannot be roused and has skin that is cold, moist and bluish.

If someone is suspected of an overdose, call 999 immediately!

While you are waiting for medical help to arrive, you can use your Naloxone (Narcan) kit to temporarily reverse the effects of the overdose if you have one.
The risk of overdose is increased by:

– The unknown purity of the drug, which makes it difficult to determine the correct dose

– Injection, because the drug reaches the brain more quickly than by other ways of taking the drug and because the dose is taken all at once
combining heroin with other sedating drugs, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines or methadone.

Additional Dangers Of Heroin Use Include:

– Injection: Injection drug use puts a person at high risk of bacterial infections, blood poisoning, skin infections and collapsed veins.

– Sharing needles increases the risk of becoming infected with, or spreading, HIV and hepatitis B or C.

– Combining heroin with other drugs, such as cocaine (in “speedballs/snowballs”): When drugs interact inside the body, the results are unpredictable and can sometimes be deadly.

– Continual use of injection equipment such as Vit C or ascorbic acid, needles that are too big, reusing injecting equipment and contamination with exterior contaminants can all cause damage to your body at injecting sites and generally over your whole body.

– Addiction: The constant need to obtain heroin and the repeated use of the drug can result in criminal involvement or other high-risk behaviour, breakdown of family life, loss of employment and poor health.
Women who regularly use heroin often miss their periods; some mistakenly think that they are infertile, and become pregnant. Continued use of heroin during pregnancy is very risky for the baby.

Heroin use during pregnancy can result in neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). NAS occurs when heroin passes through the placenta to the fetus during pregnancy, causing the baby to become dependent, along with the mother. Symptoms include excessive crying, fever, irritability, seizures, slow weight gain, tremors, diarrhoea, vomiting, and possibly death. NAS requires hospitalisation and treatment with medication (often morphine) to relieve symptoms; the medication is gradually tapered off until the baby adjusts to being opioid-free. Methadone maintenance combined with prenatal care and a comprehensive drug treatment program can improve many of the outcomes associated with untreated heroin use for both the infant and mother, although infants exposed to methadone during pregnancy typically require treatment for NAS as well.
What Are The Treatment Options?

The level of addiction will vary from person to person however, the treatment options for opioid addiction are all similar. We recommend that you contact your nearest drug and alcohol service. They will conduct a full assessment of your situation and from there, be able to tailor make a plan that will suit your particular circumstances.
Some of the most common treatment options include:
MAT treatment
– 1-2-1/group therapy
– CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy)
– Acupuncture (normally auricular acupuncture)
– Meditation, mindfulness and relaxation
– Counselling
– Residential detox & residential rehabilitation
Daily structure/routine planning
– Fellowship style meetings (AA, NA, CA ect)
– And others!
You can also contact your GP who may be able to prescribe you medicines that will help ease the withdrawal symptoms you might experience when you decide to stop using heroin. Likewise, your local Pharmacist will be able to recommend medicines that you do not require a prescription for to ease symptoms or offer general advice & guidance. All of the contact information for the services we have previously mentioned, can be found on our help & support page.

Don’t Suffer Alone, Help Is Out There! You Can Be Free & You Do Deserve It!

Published by Drink ’n’ Drugs

Providing useful, relevant, up to date information and support for those suffering from active addiction or those who are in recovery.

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