Heroin Addiction Health Risk Factors

Read on in this article to learn more details about the risk of heroin use and its effects.   

Heroin Addiction

Table of Contents

What is Heroin?

Heroin is an opiate with a significant effect on the brain’s reward system. Due to the substance’s effect on the body, heroin addiction is highly prevalent. Heroin acts by rigging the brain’s reward system and influencing the production of feel-good chemicals like endorphins and dopamine.

Heroin is an opioid substance from morphine, which is a natural substance from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants in Southeast and Southwest Asia. Since opioids affect the opioid receptors in the brain and make someone feel relaxed and experience extreme pleasure, it is highly addictive. 

Drug Schedule

In terms of drug classifications, heroin belongs to the Schedule II drugs, which include both prescription and illicit psychoactive substances. Other common Schedule II substances include methadone, Adderall, fentanyl, and oxycodone. 

Street Names

Some of the common heroin street names include dope, smack, snow, horse, H, skag, and beast. 

How is Heroin Used?

There are various ways individuals take in heroin and some other psychoactive substances. Here are some of the significant methods: 


Many individuals like to regard snorting heroin as a safer option compared to other methods of intake. Snorting is regarded as a safe method of use because the absorption process through the lungs and nose is not as fast as smoking or injecting the substance into the bloodstream. However, this method is equally as addictive as smoking or injecting the substance. 


Similar to other methods of intake, smoking heroin results in brain damage, severe addiction, lung problems, fatal overdose, and other heroin risks. Common heroin effects of smoking heroin include dry mouth, clouded thoughts, extreme itching, and nausea or vomiting. 


One of the heroin risks is the development of HIV/AIDS. According to a review, individuals who inject drugs such as heroin are twenty-two times more likely to acquire aids than any other individual.

Signs of Heroin Addiction

There are various signs of heroin use in individuals. These signs are both physical and psychological. Here are some of the significant ones to note: 

How Heroin Affects Your Eyes

The effects of heroin on the eyes are typically called “heroin eyes.” Individuals under the influence of heroin have their eyes appearing droopy or drowsy with small pupils. Other signs of heroin eyes may include a red or bloodshot appearance in the eye.

When heroin attaches to opioid receptors, it changes the central nervous system’s functionality. In scenarios where the pupils constrict or become small due to drug use, it means that the substance affects the parasympathetic region of the autonomic nervous system. 

Other Physical Symptoms

Apart from heroin eyes, there are other significant signs of heroin use. Here are some of the signs to note relating to heroin risks:

  • Dry mouth
  • Itching
  • Sleeping problems
  • Kidney and lung disease
  • Stomach cramps 

Behavioral Symptoms

Regular use of heroin reduces the ability of individuals to exert self-control. Hence, there is a high tendency for these individuals to experience severe impairment. Note that the impairment in self-control causes certain behavioral symptoms including:

  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination
  • Relationship problems
  • Increased level of impulsivity and risk-taking behaviors 

Factors that Determine the Effects of Heroin

The short and long-term effects of heroin use differ in individuals. Certain factors determine the significant heroin effects. Some of these notable factors include: 

Length of Abuse

Individuals who abuse heroin regularly may experience severe long-term effects, including hormone imbalances. The brain may experience a significant deterioration in its white matter, which may affect the ability to regulate behavior and decision-making abilities. 

Amount Used

Intake of high amounts of heroin may result in severe health conditions that include brain damage, lung disease, memory problems, and challenges in decision making. When a person takes high quantities of heroin, it results in an overdose. Some of the common signs of heroin overdose include unresponsiveness, vomiting, and a limp body. 

Interactions with Other Substances

It is inadvisable to mix psychoactive substances heroin with other harmful stances. For instance, heroin’s interaction with alcohol increases the risk of an overdose due to shallow breathing, lowered blood pressure, and increased heart rate. Heroin and benzodiazepines can also result in slow breathing, which affects an individual’s overall health. 

Individual Health History

Certain health conditions increase heroin risks and chances of addiction. Examples include people with heart conditions, as heroin tends to also result in the infection of the heart. 

Heroin Addiction Effects

There are various significant short-term and long-term effects of a heroin use disorder, depending on factors such as amount consumed and frequency of intake. Here are some of the heroin effects to note: 

Short Term Effects

The short-term effects of heroin use disorder include:2

  • Dry mouth
  • Heavy arms and legs
  • Severe itching
  • A temporal feeling of intense happiness
  • Warm flushing skin 

Long Term Effects

The significant long-term effects of heroin addiction in both young adults and older individuals include:3

  • Sleeping problems
  • Heart infection
  • Lung problems
  • Sexual problems for men
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Damage to tissues inside the nose 


Effects of a heroin overdose in individuals include:

  • Weak pulse
  • Discolored tongue
  • Constipation
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Low blood pressure
  • Coma 


When an individual experiencing heroin use disorder suddenly stops drug intake, certain heroin withdrawal symptoms occur. Here are the heroin withdrawal symptoms to note:
  • Abdominal pain
  • Sweating
  • Nervousness
  • Depression
  • Muscle spasms
  • Shaking
  • Agitation

Risks of Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction makes individuals more prone to certain conditions such as:


Heroin and most other psychoactive substances put individuals at a high risk of contracting or transmitting certain viral infections. Some individuals may contract HIV when they inject the drugs into their bodies and share needles with other people.

In certain cases, heroin may also impair judgment, making individuals have unprotected sex with an infected partner. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every ten individuals with HIV diagnosis contracts the virus via injecting drugs.4

According to a report by the CDC, 20% of recorded HIV cases among men were due to injection drug use (IDU), while 21% of HIV cases among women were also due to IDU. Women who contract the virus via heroin use or other means have a high chance of passing it to their baby during pregnancy.

Hepatitis B and C

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver and it may be due to various toxins in the body. People who exhibit risky behaviors of heroin use are prone to both hepatitis B and C infections. If treatment of the condition does not begin early, it could result in cirrhosis, which signifies a malfunction of the liver.6

Frequent heroin use places someone at a high risk of contracting viral hepatitis. People who inject heroin into their bloodstreams are at a high risk of contracting Hepatitis B or C from the shared needles. 

Treatment of Heroin Addiction at The PAC Program

There are various suitable treatment procedures for heroin addiction at The PAC Program. Here are some of the significant options to consider: 


During detox, medical experts ensure that individuals safely manage heroin withdrawal symptoms after stopping its intake. Note that detoxification involves allowing the body to remove heroin from its system and every individual has a different experience during detox.

Some of the factors that determine an individual’s experience during detox include family history, genetic makeup, the severity of addiction, and medical condition. The process of detoxification involves evaluation, stabilization, and preparing entry into treatment.

During the evaluation, our team screens the individual for both mental and physical issues. The medical expert ensures that he has an understanding of the individual’s medical history. Stabilization involves the use of medical and psychological therapy to prevent any harm to the individual undergoing heroin use disorder. 

Medication-assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) involves using certain drugs alongside counseling and behavioral therapies to provide the best treatment approach. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, approximately 2 million individuals experienced opioid use disorder containing heroin.7

The main goal of MAT is full recovery and the ability to carry on with daily activities. The purpose of this treatment method includes improving patient survival, increasing retention in treatment, and increasing an individual’s ability to gain and keep employment. FDA approved various imperative drugs for treating heroin use disorder. Before using any drug, ensure you speak to a licensed doctor for help. 


Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a common treatment procedure for individuals experiencing substance use disorder due to heroin. It is effective for various problems apart from heroin use disorder, including depression, alcohol and drug use problems, and anxiety disorders.

Some of the imperative efforts of therapists during CBT include helping individuals face fears, using role-playing to prepare for a prospective problematic interaction with others, and learning how to calm one’s mind and relax. 


If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at
623-523-4748 and our team at Blueprints For Recovery in Arizona will help.

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