Heroin Effects, Heroin Side Effects

Heroin effects and heroin side effects can be lethal. Learn about short and long term effects of heroin and heroin effects on the body.

Heroin is a semi-synthetic opiate, and like all opiates, heroin effects include effects on both the body and mind. The heroin effect sought in medical use is its powerful pain-killer effect. This effect, combined with the euphoria that often accompanies heroin abuse, are effects of heroin used in the management of pain.

Heroin addicts, however, use heroin primarily for the euphoria and transcendent relaxation effects of heroin. Due to the frequent, uncontrolled use of illegal heroin by an addict, the effects of heroin are extremely dangerous and addictive.

What are the Effects of Heroin? - Immediate Heroin Effects on the Body and Brain

When heroin is used, it is typically injected, smoked or snorted. These methods get the drug into the bloodstream quickly and produce immediate effects of heroin on the brain. Once in the brain, heroin is converted into morphine, another opiate, and binds to receptors in the brain known as opioid receptors. These receptors are involved with the perception of pain and reward: reducing the perception of pain and increasing the perception of reward.

Heroin effects on the body due to the opioid receptors throughout the body include:1 2

  • Suppression of breathing (respiration)
  • Dropping of blood pressure
  • Nausea, long periods of vomiting
  • Flushing of skin
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle spasm
  • Constriction of pupils

What are the Effects of Heroin? - Heroin Short Term Effects

Heroin short term effects are perceived as mostly pleasurable by the user. While the opiate floods the brain, the effects of heroin are experienced by the user in the following ways:

  • The rush - the initial sensation of euphoria and transcendent relaxation
  • Heavy arms and legs
  • Alternating wakeful and drowsy states - known as "on the nod"
  • Cloudy mental state, confusion
  • Feeling of itchiness

What are the Effects of Heroin? - Heroin Long Term Effects

Heroin long term effects can be devastating or even lethal. Tolerance to heroin often builds very quickly leading the user to consume more and more of the drug to achieve the same high. This increase in heroin dosage creates additional danger in heroin long term effects. Heroin long term effects also reflect the dangers of repeatedly taking increasing dosages of a street drug.

Heroin long term effects include:

  • Chronic constipation
  • Physical dependence - significant withdrawal symptoms upon drug cessation
  • Addiction
  • Depressed heart rate
  • Overdose

Specific heroin long term effects are caused by injecting heroin, which most long term users choose to do. Long term effects of heroin due to injection include:

  • Track marks
  • Scarred or collapsed veins
  • Skin infections

What are the Effects of Heroin? - Heroin Side Effects

In addition to the short and long term effects of heroin listed above, there are other primary effects of heroin and side effects due to the contaminants found in street heroin. These contaminants occur due to the heroin purification process or are added to heroin to increase its bulk.

Heroin side effects include:

  • Increased heart rate (bradycardia)
  • Coma
  • Poisoning from contaminants process
  • HIV, AIDS, hepatitis due to needle sharing
  • Infection of the heart lining
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Liver disease, related to hepatitis C contraction
  • Kidney disease
  • Cancer
  • Death

Also see Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

article references

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2021, December 15). Heroin Effects, Heroin Side Effects, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Last Updated: December 30, 2021

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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