What is heroin?

Heroin, also known as diamorphine among other names, is an opioid most commonly used as a recreational drug for its euphoric effects. Medically, it is used in several countries to relieve pain or in opioid replacement therapy. Heroin is typically injected, usually into a vein: however, it can also be smoked, snorted or inhaled. The onset of effects is usually rapid and lasts for a few hours.

Common side effects include dry mouth, drowsiness, impaired mental function, constipation and addiction. Giving up the habit after long-term use, withdrawal symptoms can begin within hours of the last usage.

When administered by injection into a vein, heroin has two to three times the effect as of a similar dose of morphine. It typically comes as a white or brown powder.

Symptoms of Addiction

  • Dry mouth and skin
  • Constricted pupils
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased breathing (if heroin is smoked)
  • Itching, vomiting and nausea
  • Mental function impairment
  • Poor performance
  • Regular injection of heroin can cause:
    • abscesses,
    • infected heart valves
    • blood borne infections and
    • pneumonia


Following are the risks associated with regular heroin usage:

  • An overdose of Heroin may prove fatal
  • Physical dependence due to frequent use
  • An overdose may also cause respiratory depression, shallow breathing, hypotension and coma
  • Administering heroin injections intravenously may cause HIV, hepatitis and toxic reactions owing to needles being contaminated
  • Collapsed veins and
  • Endocarditis (inflammation of the heart lining and valves)
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Bacterial infections
  • Organ damage (typically caused by additives in street heroin)

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