What Does Heroin Do to You?
- 1 What Does Heroin Do to You?
- 2 What Are the Effects of a Heroin High?
- 3 What Opioids are Similar to Heroin in Effect?
- 4 How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System?
- 5 How Long Does a Heroin High Last?
- 6 Other Factors That Affect a How Long a Heroin High Lasts
- 7 How Does Heroin Affect Me Physically?
- 8 The Long Term Effects of Chasing a Heroin High
- 9 What Does it Feel Like When Heroin Wears Off?
- 10 Helping Someone Seek Treatment for Heroin Use
- 11 Treatment for Heroin Abuse and Addiction
- 12 Finding the Right Addiction Treatment for You
Heroin, which is derived from a flower called the opium poppy, is a highly addictive drug that directly affects the brain. Once heroin reaches the brain, it binds to opioid receptors in several areas, particularly those that impact feelings of pain and pleasure, as well as an individual’s heart rate and breathing. The answer to the question, ‘How long does a heroin high last,’ depends on the method by which the drug is taken.
Heroin can be taken either by snorting, smoking, or injecting the drug directly into the bloodstream with a needle. Injecting heroin is the most dangerous method of its usage, not just because of the health implications of the drug itself, but because it is the easiest way for an individual to overdose. Furthermore, using unsanitized needles can create a risk of infection.
When heroin enters the body, it causes a number of problems. This includes stopping the body’s reception of pain messages and slowing an individual’s heart rate and breathing. In the event of an overdose, an individual’s system will be slowed down to such an extent that they may stop breathing entirely.
What Are the Effects of a Heroin High?
The initial heroin high stage can cause a rush of happiness and euphoric feelings, which is then typically followed by feeling as though the world has slowed down. Individuals may also experience feeling sedated or relaxed, as well as heaviness in their limbs.
What Opioids are Similar to Heroin in Effect?
Other opioids that have similar effects to heroin include morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and methadone. These are all typically used in treating pain, but can be highly addictive if used in excessive quantities.
One of the substances commonly associated with heroin addiction is fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times stronger than morphine in treating pain. While it has been found effective in managing physical pain, particularly in cancer patients, its potency makes it prone to abuse.
Opiates vs Opioids
It can be difficult to differentiate whether a substance is considered an opiate or an opioid, as these terms are often used interchangeably. However, their definitions do, in fact, include different substances.
Opioids encompass all-natural, synthetic, or semi-synthetic chemicals that interact with opioid receptors in the brain. This includes heroin, fentanyl, morphine, and other substances like these. Opiates, on the other hand, refer only to natural opioids, such as heroin, as well as morphine and codeine.
How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System?
Heroin has a half-life of 30 minutes, which means that, within this timeframe of taking it, half of the dosage will have been flushed from the system. However, this does not apply to everyone.
There are several factors that can affect how long it will take for an individual to clear heroin from their system, including:
- Height and weight
- Body fat
- Genetic factors
- Dosage taken
- Drug quality
- Liver and kidney health
- Level of hydration
How Long Does a Heroin High Last?
How long heroin takes to kick in and for the high to eventually wear off depends on what method an individual uses to administer it.
For those who use heroin via injection, the high can begin in as little as 20 seconds. The peak effects will typically hit around two hours later, and the overall experience can last for several hours (four hours on average).
Smoking heroin will push the time it takes for the drug to kick in, delaying the onset around five to ten minutes but producing a high that can last anywhere from four to five hours longer than injecting it. The same timeline applies to snorting heroin, although both methods pose different physical side effects.
Other Factors That Affect a How Long a Heroin High Lasts
Aside from an individual’s method of administering heroin into their system, there are several factors that can affect how long a heroin high lasts. Some of these include:
- Potency. Because heroin production is not regulated, the strength of this drug depends on an individual’s source for it; the stronger or ‘purer’ the substance, the longer a high will likely last.
- Amount Taken. Taking larger amounts of this substance will naturally increase the amount of time that it lasts, as well as make the heroin high feel more intense; however, this initial rush is more likely to be followed by more intense withdrawal symptoms as the drug wears off.
- Tolerance Level. Regular usage of any drug will lead to the development of a tolerance to it over time. This tolerance means that individuals must gradually increase their dosage of this opiate over time, in order to produce the same euphoric rush and heroin high feeling.
- Combining Substance Usage. Heroin users who combine alcohol or other drugs with this substance may find that it enhances the effects of heroin and how long they last; however, this also increases their likelihood of overdosing or experiencing other health complications due to their substance abuse.
How Does Heroin Affect Me Physically?
The physical effects of heroin on an individual will vary based on their overall health, build, sex, the amount and method of heroin usage, how long they have been using, simultaneous use of other substances, and whether they have any underlying health conditions.
There are several physical effects that heroin may have on a person, including:
- Warm and/or flushed skin
- Heaviness in the limbs
- Itching or tingling
- Loss of appetite, nausea, and/or vomiting
- Slowed breathing and heart rate
- Drowsiness or extreme relaxation
- Runny nose, watering in the eyes
- Small pupils, difficulty thinking
- Dry mouth
- Irritation to the lining of the nose when snorting heroin
The Long Term Effects of Chasing a Heroin High
As with any form of drug abuse that continues over long periods of time, heroin addiction can have extremely dangerous consequences for the addicted person. Extended heroin use has been linked to causing changes in the brain, including:
- Damage caused to the physical structure of an individual’s brain
- Impaired ability to make decisions, control behaviors, and respond to stress
- Increased likelihood of relapse
Furthermore, heroin addictions have been found to cause a number issues regarding sexual activity and reproductive systems for men and women, including:
- Disrupted or irregular menstrual cycles in women
- Increased risk of miscarriage
- Increased risk of premature birth, still-birth
- Babies born with low weights, or with a heroin addiction
- Decreased sex drives
- Erectile dysfunction in men
Finally, there is the issue of health risks associated with unsanitary heroin intake methods. Some of the potential physical side effects associated with this behavior are:
- Liver and/or kidney disease
- Arthritis, or other rheumatologic problems
- Infection in the lungs
- Collapsing of veins
- Infection in the lining & valves of the heart
- Abscesses on the skin or other skin infections
- Increased risk of blood-borne viruses (i.e., hepatitis or HIV)
The Risk of Overdose Using Heroin
In the event that an individual takes too much of this substance, its side effects can be life-threatening. Whether an individual chooses to smoke, inject, or snort heroin, doing so in excess quantities can cause the individual’s breathing to slow to dangerous levels, or even stop completely.
When the brain is deprived of oxygen, this can have serious short-term and long-term health implications. In the case of excess heroin intake, the body’s inability to properly provide oxygen to the brain can result in a coma, permanent brain damage, or even death.
Fentanyl and the Overdose Crisis in America
Because of its ability to cause feelings of extreme euphoria in users, fentanyl is often added to heroin to increase these effects. Furthermore, because it produces many of the same effects as heroin (i.e., pain relief and relaxation), it is not uncommon for fentanyl to be sold disguised as this drug. This has led to many cases in which individuals purchased fentanyl unknowingly.
This trend has become a major concern in recent years, as those who are unaware they received fentanyl are more prone to experiencing life-threatening consequences as a result of using it. Just between 2018 and 2019 alone, the number of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, in the United States increased by over 16%.
Epidemic Within a Pandemic
Because of how potent and addictive heroin is, it is considered one of the deadliest forms of a substance use disorder an individual can have. A massive contributor to the opioid epidemic in the United States, heroin overdose serves as the leading cause of death for an average of 15,000 people a year.
Unfortunately, the cases of overdose deaths in the U.S. have increased in recent years. Some studies have linked this to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
This has been found to be due to a number of reasons, including the fact that the symptoms associated with the virus can increase the susceptibility of individuals with an opioid use disorder (or other substance abuse disorder) to contracting COVID-19, as well as developing fatal health complications from it.
Opioid Dependence Risk Factors Rise During Covid
Additionally, increased stress levels due to loss of work, decreased social interaction and mobility, lack of access to mental health treatment, and other factors associated with the pandemic have been linked to increased cases of individuals developing an addiction, whether to heroin or other substances.
For people who may have been in the process of receiving addiction treatment, or who have previously recovered from a drug or alcohol addiction, this increased stress and isolation was also found to have been a leading trigger in their relapse.
What Does it Feel Like When Heroin Wears Off?
For individuals struggling with a heroin addiction, stopping this substance usage can pose a series of complications for them, both physically and mentally. Heroin withdrawal symptoms can start even just a few hours of a person’s last dosage, and may include:
- Intense drug cravings
- Severe pain in the muscles and bones
- Sweating, trembling, chills
- Uncontrollable crying
- Nausea, diarrhea, and/or vomiting
- Runny nose, fever
- Death (in the case of other existing medical conditions)
Heroin users who suddenly stop their substance intake are more likely to develop severe health consequences in response to no longer providing their body with a drug it has become dependent on.
Thus, for individuals who are severely addicted to heroin, it is strongly recommended that they receive professional medical help in overcoming their dependency.
Helping Someone Seek Treatment for Heroin Use
For most people with loved ones who are struggling with a heroin addiction, it is not uncommon for them to feel helpless to support these individuals. Of course, while certainly a difficult position to be in, there are several ways in which a person can help these addicted individuals, including:
- Educating themselves on addiction, its causes, and its consequences.
- Holding an intervention with their addicted loved one, and reminding them they are not alone in their struggle.
- Researching addiction treatment and recovery facilities near their loved one.
- Helping to pay or find alternative methods of payment for the individual’s treatment.
- Providing transportation to treatment centers, medical and/or therapeutic appointments, etc.
- Attending support groups or appointments with their loved one when necessary and/or allowed.
Treatment for Heroin Abuse and Addiction
When treating heroin addiction, individuals must undergo a gradual and careful reduction process, in which the substance (and their body’s need for it) is slowly removed from their system.
Particularly for individuals who have developed a significant tolerance for this substance, properly controlling their intake reduction and the subsequent withdrawal symptoms that will accompany it is crucial for their successful recovery.
Heroin Detox and Withdrawal Effects
When it comes to recovery methods, medically supervised heroin detox is typically the first line of treatment for this type of addiction. Medical detoxes are the safest way to ensure an individual receives constant professional supervision and care for any physical or mental complications that may arise during their recovery process.
When withdrawing from heroin, users will usually develop a number of physical symptoms in response to no longer having access to this drug. However, many individuals may also experience severe depression and suicidal ideologies. In these cases, controlled medication is typically administered to help combat these effects.
Medication Assisted Treatment
Most medical detoxes will administer medications that have been found effective in minimizing and/or preventing withdrawal symptoms and relapse urges in clients recovering from heroin abuse. One of these medications is Suboxone, which is made up of two different drugs:
- An opioid that only stimulates a partial amount of the brain’s opioid receptors, helping to reduce dependency on the euphoria associated with a heroin high; also diminishes withdrawal symptoms.
- A narcotic that affects the central nervous system, blocking opioid receptors in the brain, subsequently reversing the effects of opioid abuse.
Finding the Right Addiction Treatment for You
For most people struggling with addiction, this can often be an incredibly painful and isolating experience. If you or a loved one is struggling with heroin abuse, you don’t have to go through it alone. Here at Find Addiction Rehabs, our support team is dedicated to helping you find the best care and recovery options for you.
Deciding to overcome addiction and get started on a path to a better life may be a tough choice, but it is the right one. Let us help you make that decision. Call today, and take the first step on your road to recovery, where you can become a happier, healthier you!
Nicole R. is an experienced and accomplished writer with special interests in the fields of Anthropology, English, and behavioral health, and has written countless articles for newspaper publications, institutional research journals, and Find Addiction Rehabs.
Her alma matter is Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Nicole hopes to spread awareness of and combat the stigmatization surrounding addiction and substance abuse treatment through her writing and work in the field.