What is “Shooting Heroin”?

It is estimated that 9.2 million people in the world use heroin.  According to the scholastic website, Heads Up, most of those users take the fast track to getting high by injecting the drug into their veins or shooting Heroin.

“Injecting heroin is the quickest way to experience the affects,” stated drug counselor Kay Dunkin.

Shooting Heroin - Photo of a young man sitting down with something tied around his left are as he sticks a heroin needle into his vein with his right hand.

Commonly referred to as “shooting up”, introducing heroin directly into the bloodstream brings about the euphoric effects almost immediately as the drug travels right to the brain.  Once in the brain, it clings to opiate receptors housed on neurons, stimulating feelings of pain relief and euphoria.   While injecting is overstimulating at first, a tolerance is rapidly built up.  That is why most heroin addicts who inject drugs have little interest in any other form of doing it such as smoking or snorting.

In addition to “shooting up”, there are a number of other slang terms used to describe injecting heroin like “banging”, “firing up”, “slamming”, “hitting”, “hanging fire”, “booting” and “spiking”.

The Process Of Shooting Up (Injecting Heroin)

The Score

To many heroin addicts, the ritual of shooting up itself becomes an addiction as well. The first step is to “score” or, to acquire the drug.  Heroin is available in several forms like powder (white or brown) or a dark brown or black tar-like substance, called tar heroin.  Both are usually packaged in a clear capsule, small zip-lock baggie or a in the corner of a plastic baggie that has been cut to size and then melted shut with a lighter to seal the substance in.

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Once the drug has been attained, it’s time to “fix”.  To do so, the capsule or baggie is opened and the heroin is placed in a metal spoon or in a metal screw-on bottle cap (like that comes on a quart bottle of beer) with the plastic taken out.  A syringe is used to measure out the water according to the individual user’s preference then is squirted onto the heroin.  Syringes are also called “needles”, “bats”, “sharps”, “points” and “sticks”.

When the heroin is diluted, the syringe is taken apart so the plunger can be used to stir the substance while heat from a lighter or match is administered underneath the spoon or bottle cap.  It is slowly stirred until it melts down into an injectable substance.  The syringe is then put back together and the heroin and water mixture is drawn into the syringe through a tiny wad of cotton to filter it out so the syringe doesn’t clog up.  The filter is generally obtained from a small piece of cotton ball, Q-tip or a shred of cigarette filter.

Most heroin addicts have worn out their veins and use various methods to “tie off” which helps the vein protrude so the drug can be injected.  Belts, long socks, elastic tubes and ties, purse straps, towels, strings, yarn and practically anything else that can be wrapped around is common shooting paraphernalia.  While veins in the arms are convenient and most popular, when veins are collapsed, calloused or become too obvious, those in the legs, hands, feet, neck, breasts (for females), groin, in between the toes and ankles may be used.  A desperate individual struggling with heroin addiction may even shoot up in a muscle but the effect is not as pronounced as in a vein.

Injection of the heroin

Once the vein is protruding and held in place, the user inserts the needle of the syringe into the vein and pushes the heroin in.  The effect are immediate, usually beginning with a warm feeling in the throat accompanied by a taste that varies according to the type of heroin any additive, “cut”, in it.  As the heroin travels through the bloodstream to the brain, a warm feeling flows over the body and euphoric feelings set in.  That process is called a “rush”.  Pain is relieved and all is well…for a time at least.

Symptoms of heroin use

When high, it is common for heroin users to drift off to sleep which is referred to as “nodding”.  They may also vomit, scratch a lot, have a dry mouth (cotton mouth), slow and slurred speech and/or have a glazed over look about them.  Many operate at a slower pace although, especially when the heroin is mixed with cocaine in a “speed ball”, they make become overactive and even paranoid.  Heroin can also be mixed with methamphetamine.

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Dangers of shooting heroin

Most individuals struggling with addiction are not known for being responsible.  A word of caution is that most heroin addicts reuse syringes over and over which is dangerous for them as well as for anyone who comes into contact with the needles.  They tend to share syringes with other users too.

The implications of injecting heroin are many.  When an addict injects, if he “misses”, the drug goes into the area around the vein and can easily cause an abscess which is especially dangerous for those who hit in their neck or near the heart.  Once a vein has been overused, it tends to collapse which is destructive to the circulatory system.

There is the risk of contracting AIDS, Hepatitis B and C, blood-borne viruses and host of other medical conditions.  Of course there is always the possibility of overdose and death.

Signs & Symptoms of Shooting Heroin

If you suspect someone is injecting heroin, here are some tell-tale signs to look for:

  1. Physical traits such as being overly sleepy or having slurred speech or overly active and talkative.
  2. Exaggerated emotions like extreme highs and lows with bouts of depression when the drug wears off.
  3. Being sick like vomiting and flu-like symptoms.
  4. Changes in eating habits, mostly eating too little or very sporadically.
  5. “Tie offs” around the house, especially in the restroom areas.
  6. Spoons with black char marks on the bottom.
  7. Bottle caps with the plastic insert pulled out and burn marks on the underside.
  8. Q-tips or cigarette filters that have been pulled apart.
  9. Tiny balls of cotton, especially in the restroom or area you suspect drug activity to be taking place.
  10. Needle marks (tracks) on any area housing veins, even in between the toes.
  11. The wearing of long sleeves even in the summertime.
  12. Metal spoons missing.
  13. Bottles of water opened but barely used (fixing usually takes only about 40 units of water).
  14. Syringes or broken needles.
  15. Empty baggies or capsules.
  16. Baggies with the corners cut off.

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How to stop shooting heroin?

If you suspect that someone you know is shooting heroin, the time to act is now.  Reach out to a specialist who can help you set up and intervention to ultimately get your loved one into drug treatment.
Find Addiction Rehabs is here to help. Call anytime 7 days a week 24 hours a day.