Heroin and Alcohol

Dangers of Combining Heroin and Alcohol

Table of Contents


First produced in 1874 by British chemist C.R. Alder Wright (who was simply looking for a non-addictive numbing agent and cough medicine), heroin—or diamorphine—is an opioid synthesized from morphine. Morphine is a naturally occurring compound of the opium poppy plant. Heroin commonly appears as a white or brown powder. Black tar heroin is hard (like coal), sticky (like roofing tar), and dark brown to black in color. This form is less refined than other forms of heroin- in other words, black tar heroin is made by a crude process resulting in a cheaper product. This is then either smoked or melted for intravenous use. Regardless of form, heroin is classified as a Schedule I drug by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, meaning that, in the United States, heroin is considered to be a drug with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.

Dangers of Combining Heroin and Alcohol

Combining heroin and alcohol greatly increases the risk of harm. When both substances are abused together there is a heightened level of intoxication. Alcohol and heroin are both sedating drugs and central nervous system depressants, meaning that taking them together can result in unconsciousness, dizziness, slowness to react to stimuli, and impaired coordination.


Heroin addiction falls under the category of Opioid Use Disorder. Heroin has the potential to create severe psychological and/or physical dependence. The drug produces psychological effects which include a surge of euphoria followed by a twilight state of sleep and wakefulness as well as physiological effects, which includes:

Withdrawal and tolerance are the hallmarks of dependence, and heroin use can result in the development of dependence quickly. Many drugs that interfere with the function of neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers in the brain, have some impact on the brain’s reward processing center.

The Body's Opioid System

For instance, opiates are incredibly addictive because they directly interact with the body’s opioid system, which controls pain, reward, and addictive behaviors, via three opioid receptors: mu, delta, and kappa. Opioids like heroin have the same molecule fragment as the endorphins that bind to mu-receptors. As such, these drugs compete with natural endorphins for mu-receptors, disrupting the production of endorphins in the short term, and disrupting the production of mu-opioid receptors in the long term. Endorphins normally activate mu-receptors to slow central nervous system (CNS) functions (i.e. breathing rate), impact mood, and produce a sedative and painkilling effect. In the short term, the use of hydrocodone produces a spike in dopamine levels. Over time, the body becomes increasingly tolerant and is decreasingly affected by the opiate, which leads to an escalation in the amount taken as well as other drug-seeking behavior.

How Long Does Heroin Last?

The effects of heroin may last for 3-5 hours, but the substance can last (i.e. remains detectable) for longer inside the body, depending on factors including height and weight, the amount consumed, and the speed of your metabolism. Other factors, including whether anything has been eaten recently or the presence of any other drugs, can affect the duration as well.


Heroin addiction may be treated by one or a combination of the following:
Heroin and alcohol are both addictive drugs that when abused produce several negative and potentially life-threatening side effects. If there is a history of excessive alcohol and heroin use, a co-occurring disorder may be present and should be treated by a professional. Programs specializing in dual diagnosis provide holistic therapies instead of treating one disorder at a time. Detox is typically not a sufficient treatment for addiction, so comprehensive substance abuse programs are necessary to prevent relapse and support long-term recovery from heroin addiction and alcoholism.


  • https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-scopemethamphetamine-misuse-in-united-states
  • https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine

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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