What Are the Physical Effects of Heroin Abuse?

What Does a Heroin High Feel Like?

Known as “slamming,” intravenous heroin injection results in these feelings with a delay of only 10 seconds or less from the time of injection to the rush’s onset. If heroin is injected into a muscle instead of a vein, these effects can take 5 to 10 minutes to onset or 10 to 15 minutes to appear when smoked or snorted. This leads many heroin users to opt for intravenous injection as a means of use.

When heroin first hits, users feel a mixture of intense feelings known as a “rush”—particularly noted for its euphoria and extreme relaxation. Users also report feelings of intense heat and warmth as the heroin moves from the injection site into the bloodstream. It’s commonly said that the first heroin high ushers users into a euphoric, dream-like state—so much so that it’s nearly impossible to reach again. Unfortunately, euphoric feelings tend to dissipate as tolerance builds and repeated use, leading many heroin users to up their dosages to unsafe levels.

What Are the Physical Effects of Heroin?

Heroin has many noticeable short-term and long-term effects. In addition to the euphoric feelings associated with heroin, the body begins to feel heavy and sleepiness sets in. Many heroin users also experience difficulty breathing. Often, heroin users experience a pervasively dry mouth, have difficulty coughing, and experience nausea or an upset stomach. Long-term heroin users often experience digestive problems that can result in near-permanent constipation. Those who inject heroin face additional physical problems, including the telltale scarring, abscesses, and infections along the inner arms, collectively known as “track marks.” Additionally, intravenous users place themselves at significant risk of contracting blood-borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis.

Can You Overdose on Heroin?

Heroin is a powerful narcotic, and heroin overdose is highly likely for new and long-term users. A central nervous system depressant, heroin slows down both heartbeat and breathing until the user loses consciousness and ultimately starves the body of oxygen. Since death is not instantaneous, proper medical treatment during a heroin overdose can save your life. New users frequently take too much heroin out of inexperience. In contrast, long-term users have developed a tolerance to heroin and need increasingly large doses—making taking a lethal dose more likely. The purity of heroin can vary greatly, resulting in accidentally ingesting a much more significant amount than anticipated. Furthermore, taking heroin with other drugs or alcohol can heighten the adverse side effects, making a heroin overdose more likely.

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