What is heroin?
Heroin is part of a group of drugs known as opioids. Opioids interact with opioid receptors in the brain and elicit a range of responses within the body; from feelings of pain relief, to relaxation, pleasure and contentment. Heroin comes in different forms, including:
• Fine white powder
• Coarse off-white granules
• Tiny pieces of light brown ‘rock’
Smack, gear, hammer, the dragon, H, dope, junk, harry, horse, black tar, white dynamite, homebake, china white, Chinese H, poison, Dr Harry
How is it used?
Heroin is usually injected into a vein, but it’s also smoked (‘chasing the dragon’) and added to cigarettes and cannabis. The effects are usually felt straight away. The effects take around 10 to 15 minutes if snorted.
Effects of heroin
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries risk. Heroin affects everyone differently, based on:
• The person’s size, weight and health
• Whether the person is used to taking it
• Whether other drugs are taken around the same time
• The amount taken
• The strength of the drug (it varies from batch to batch)
You will experience the below effects, which will last for 3 to 5 hours:
• Intense pleasure and pain relief
• Relaxation, drowsiness and clumsiness
• Slurred and slow speech
• Slow breathing and heartbeat
• Dry mouth
• Tiny pupils
• Reduced appetite and vomiting
• Decreased sex drive If injecting drugs there is an increased risk of:
• vein damage.
If sharing needles there is an increased risk of:
• hepatitis B.
• hepatitis C.
• HIV and AIDS.
If you take a large amount or have a strong batch, you could overdose. If you have any of the symptoms below, call an ambulance straight away
• Trouble concentrating
• Falling asleep (‘going on the nod’)
• Wanting to urinate but finding it hard to
• Irregular heartbeat
• Cold, clammy skin
• Slow breathing, blue lips and fingertips
• Passing out
• Death Naloxone reverses the effects of heroin, particularly in the case of an overdose.
Coming down In the days after heroin use, the following may be experienced:
Regular use of heroin may eventually cause:
• Intense sadness
• Irregular periods and difficulty having children
• No sex drive
• Damaged heart, lungs, liver and brain
• Vein damage and skin, heart and lung infections from injecting
• Needing to use more to get the same effect
• Dependence on heroin
• Financial, work or social problems
Using heroin with other drugs
The effects of taking heroin with other drugs – including over-the-counter or prescribed medications – can be unpredictable and dangerous, and could cause:
• Heroin + ice, speed or ecstasy: enormous strain on the heart and kidneys, and increased risk of overdose.
• Heroin + alcohol, cannabis or benzodiazepines: breathing may slow and eventually stop.