How is heroin smoked?

When most people think about heroin they often visualize a person nodding off with a needle sticking out of their arm. While in most cases injecting heroin is the preferred method of delivery for this drug, there is still a vast amount of users that smoke heroin. Smoking heroin can give the user the same effects as injecting heroin without the risk that comes with injection. Most users believe that since they are not injecting the drug they are not at risk for the major side-effects caused by heroin. However, this is by no means a “safer” way to use heroin, it is just as dangerous and deadly no matter how you use the drug.

After a user has smoked heroin they will start to feel the effects within minutes as the smoke travels into the lungs and travels into the brain. Users will first start to get a dry mouth and flushed skin, the pupils will be constricted and the user will start to feel a heavy sensation and may fade in and out of wakefulness. Thinking will be unclear and memory can be spotty, in addition decision-making and self-control will deteriorate. Physical signs of smoking heroin are itching, nausea and vomiting.

Different ways to smoke heroin:

Heroin can be smoked a numerous number of ways. The most common method of smoking heroin is to smoke it by itself. The user will place an amount of heroin on a piece of tinfoil and use a lighter to light it from underneath. Once the heroin starts to melt it produces a white smoke and the heroin will run down the sheet of tinfoil. The user will then follow the smoke, or “chase” it and inhale the smoke through a pen tube or straw, called a hooter. This is what the term “Chasing the Dragon” is associated with. The tinfoil will have black burn marks on the bottom and black lines on the top, this is a sure sign that a person is smoking heroin. In addition to being smoked on tinfoil, heroin can also be smoked in small glass pipes or other such devices. Not only can heroin be smoked by itself, but it is often combined with other drugs to produce a different effect. Each different combination of drugs comes with their own unique side-effects and different highs. Listed below you will find some common combinations and the street/slang term associated with it.

  • Heroin
    • Chasing the Dragon, Firing the Ack Ack Gun
  • Heroin and Marijuana
    • Atom Bomb, Woo-Woo
  • Heroin and Ecstasy
    • Chocolate Chip Cookies, H Bomb
  • Heroin and Cocaine
    • Goofball, Snowball, Primo
  • Heroin and Crack
    • Dragon Rock, Moonrock, Chocolate Rock


What are the effects of smoking heroin?

Any type of heroin use is dangerous and has many effects on the body however, smoking heroin comes with its own unique type of side effects. Smoking the drug can cause severe damage to the lungs and increase the risk of respiratory diseases. Pneumonia and bronchitis are just two of the diseases that smoking heroin can cause. One of the major and most commons symptoms is coughing and hoarseness. Users can have a hacking cough that can, at times, result in them coughing up blood. This hoarse, raspy cough can result in an increase of usage of medications such as cough medicine, throat sprays or lozenges. This hacking cough can also lead to asthma in which a user will need a nebulizer and medication in order to deal with the effects of asthma. Hoarseness can also be caused by smoking heroin. A user will often lose their voice or find it difficult to speak. Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, labored breathing when performing any activity and other breathing problems are all symptoms associated with smoking heroin. In addition to damage to the lungs, damage to the brain, heart, liver and kidneys can also occur.

How can I tell if my loved one is smoking heroin?

Just like with any other method of using heroin, there are certain things you can look for and signs that will alert you to your loved one’s use. Physical and mental signs include nausea, vomiting, poor grooming, loss of appetite or not eating resulting in dramatic or sudden weight loss, varying states of wakefulness and sleep, agitation, unclear thoughts, changes in mood and a general deceitful or closed-off attitude and behaviors. Smoking heroin also comes with its own unique tell-tale signs of use. In order to smoke heroin there are certain items needed, called paraphernalia.

Paraphernalia associated with smoking heroin:

  • Tiny baggies
  • Tan/whitish powdery residue
  • Dark/sticky reside
  • Tinfoil with black residue
  • Balled up pieces of tinfoil
  • Pen tubes/straws or the like (used for inhaling heroin)
  • Small glass pipes
  • Lighters
  • Black reside on fingers or clothing

How to stop smoking heroin?

If you feel that your loved one is smoking heroin, it is important that you get them the help they need right away. Most heroin users will not ask for help, even though they greatly need it. There are a number of treatment centers and places that can help you and your loved one and provide much needed support. It is important for you and the user to know that you are not alone.