A Complete Guide to Heroin

A Complete Guide to Heroin
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Group of people on walking on the street.

An opioid epidemic has plagued our country for decades, with an increasing number of Americans dying of opioid overdoses starting in the 1990s. Heroin is one of the cheapest, most accessible versions of the drug, making heroin addiction an all-too-common problem in America.

But what is heroin, and what makes it so dangerous? Check out our guide for everything you need to know about the drug.

What Is Heroin?

Heroin is a drug made from morphine, which comes from the seed of opium poppy plants. The drug is also known as big H, hell dust, and smack. It is typically sold as a brown or white powder, or a sticky, dark substance. The drug can be injected with a needle, sniffed, snorted, or smoked.

Many heroin users start out by abusing prescription drug opioids, such as OxyContin or Vicodin. Because these drugs are more expensive and difficult to obtain, users end up switching to heroin, which is more affordable and easier to come by.

Heroin is a highly addictive drug with many severe short-term and long-term effects, and heroin overdose can even result in death.

What Is Heroin Made Of?

Heroin is made from the resin found in the seeds of poppy plants. Known as opium, this sappy, milk-colored substance is taken from the poppy pod and refined to create morphine. From there, morphine is refined to make a variety of types of heroin.

Is Heroin an Opioid?

Yes, heroin is an opioid, a type of drug intended to reduce pain in the body. Other types of opioids include prescription drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine. Unlike these drugs, heroin use is illegal in any form.

Heroin Effects

Heroin use is typically accompanied by a short-term rush of pleasure or a feeling of euphoria. However, this rush is also accompanied by undesirable side effects, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Flushed skin
  • Heaviness of limbs
  • Nausea
  • Itching
  • Clouded mind
  • Loss of consciousness
  • And more

Those who use heroin long-term can experience even more serious effects, such as:

  • Insomnia
  • Collapsed veins
  • Abscesses
  • Lung problems
  • Mental disorders
  • Infection to the lining of the heart
  • Damaged nose tissue (if snorted)
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Irregular menstrual cycles

Young woman contemplating her struggles with heroin.

How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System?

The length of time heroin stays in your system depends on the dosage, purity of the heroin, and how it is taken. The drug is known to stay in the blood up to six hours and can remain in saliva 24 hours and in urine for up to three days. Heroin can even stay in hair strands for up to 90 days.

Signs of Heroin Use

Physical and behavioral symptoms of heroin use include:

  • Dilated pupils (when coming down from heroin)
  • Smaller-than-average pupils (when high on the drug)
  • Dark eye circles
  • Puffy eyes
  • Droopiness of the face
  • Coughing
  • Bleeding nose
  • Scabs
  • Weight loss
  • Fever, nausea, vomiting (during withdrawal)
  • Unkempt appearance
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia
  • Changes in mood or appetite

Those who overdose on heroin may exhibit symptoms such as:

  • Blue lips
  • Shallowness of breath
  • Confusion
  • Tiny pupils
  • Loss of consciousness

Is Heroin Legal?

No, heroin is not a legal drug under any circumstances. The drug is manufactured and sold on the streets illegally.

Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Individuals addicted to heroin who stop using the drug can experience intense withdrawal symptoms. The onset of these symptoms varies, typically starting about six hours to a day after the final dose. The withdrawal phase can last for a week or even months afterward, including symptoms like fever, cravings, mood swings, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea, and more.

Get Help with Heroin Addiction Today

Group of young adults sitting talking about struggles with heroin.

If you or someone you know is battling a heroin addiction, Pinnacle Treatment Centers can help. We aim to solve America’s opioid epidemic, one patient at a time.

Our compassionate approach offers hope to those facing even the direst situation. We provide medication-assisted treatment to help our patients do the work of recovery from heroin addiction. Contact us today to learn more about our proven treatment methods.

The materials provided on the Pinnacle Blog are for information and educational purposes only. No behavioral health or any other professional services are provided through the Blog and the information obtained through the Blog is not a substitute for consultation with a qualified health professional. If you are in need of medical or behavioral health treatment, please contact a qualified health professional directly, and if you are in need of emergency help, please go to your nearest emergency room or dial 911.