Friday March 6th 2015

How does heroin work?

How does heroin work?

Heroin affects the brain, central nervous system and has effects all over the body. But, how exactly does heroin work in the body and brain? Does heroin have the same effect for everyone (especially heroin and teens)? We’ll explore these questions and more in this article. And we invite your questions about heroin at the end.

How does heroin affect the brain and nervous system?

Heroin effects the opioid receptors in the brain which disrupts endorphin production sent out to the rest of the body. This action is directly responsible for creating intense euphoria while suppressing physical pain and the reason why heroin also acts as an analgesic (pain killer) on the body system. Furthermore, heroin also depresses the central nervous system and the spinal cord. This chemical effect of heroin slows the motor functions which is why you feel so relaxed and out of it when you’re taking heroin. But heroin’s effect on the brain lead to to physical and psychological dependency on the drug. That is, over time, the body feels it needs heroin in order to function. And the mind cannot live without it (addiction).

How does heroin work in the body?

Is heroin addictive physically?  Yes.  Once heroin is in the system – either by smoking, snorting, or injection – it depresses the dopamine sensory pathways in the brain. This induces create a rush of euphoria. As the heroin rushes through the blood stream it warms the body. The extremities also become heavy and relaxed. Heroin can also produce dry mouth, nausea, and vomiting. It slows all functions of the physical and mental functions. But be warned: taking heroin just once can result in overdose and potential death. Heroin is unpredictable and how it’s going to affect your body changes between individuals who are taking heroin.

How fast or quickly does heroin work?

When heroin is directly injected into the blood stream , the effect of the high happens quickly after injection. You will feel in almost immediate rush and flush of the skin. This rush take about 6-8 seconds to happen. The peak effects of heroin can be felt about 10 minutes after injection. In contrast, intramuscular injection of heroin produces a relatively slow onset of euphoria (5 to 8 minutes). When heroin is sniffed or smoked, peak effects are usually felt within 10 to 15 minutes.

How long does heroin work?

Following heroin use, the intense euphoria lasts from 45 seconds to several minutes, peak effects last 1-2 hours, and the overall effects wear off in 3-5 hours, depending on dose. In fact, the high induced by heroin can last several hours after injection. While peak high symptoms happen about 10 minutes after injection effects such as drowsiness, relaxation, somnolence and disconnected from the world can last several hours after someone has injected heroin.

What makes heroin work better?

Heroin is an illegal drug and used for non-medical recreational purposes. And heroin works pretty well on its own. However, after continued use of heroin over the period of weeks or months, the phenomenon of tolerance can occur.  When you develop tolerance to heroin, it takes more heroin to produce the same initial effects. Some people use other substances to intensify the high brought on by heroin. Alcohol is popular substance used to increase a heroin high. But mixing heroin and alcohol should be avoided because it increase the likelihood of overdose and death.  Additionally, never increase doses of heroin drastically, or you could provoke overdose.

Does heroin work for everyone?

You never know how it’s going to affect someone. In general, heroin has a high potential to produce pain relief and euphoria in most people. And everyone has a potential to become dependent and addicted to heroin, resulting in heroin withdrawal syndrome when you stop taking the drug. However, some people may find themselves dependent on heroin and addicted to heroin much quicker than the next person who is taking heroin.

How does heroin work questions

Do you still have questions about how heroin works? Please leave your questions here. We will try our best to answer you personally and promptly. And if we don’t know the answer to your questions, we’ll refer you to someone who does.

Reference Sources: NIDA Research Report Series: How is heroin used?
Disease Reference Information

ANL: How Heroin works

NYC department of Health and medicine: Heroin addiction and Abuse

Photo credit: National Institute of Drug Abuse

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8 Responses to “How does heroin work?
11:22 pm December 8th, 2012

Hi, just a simple little question…if you take a drug long enough will your brain permanently like that?

6:16 pm December 11th, 2012

Hi, I have a few questions if you do drugs long enough, will your brain manipulte and stay that way? Also, is heroin the worst drug to take? One more thing, what made you decided to make a blog about addictions?

8:09 pm December 11th, 2012

Hi Maria. Much research is currently been done into the way that drugs alter the brain. Search for these keywords for more information: brain opiate long term effect

In terms of “worst” drug…by what measure?

And I blog about addictions because a few years ago, there was no blog available which explored the medical issues around addiction. I blog to learn about addiction while at the same time, disseminate accurate information about addiction based on research and clinical studies.

12:41 pm May 13th, 2013

Tolerance does of course build up but this takes time and is not an overnight occurence and certainly not something that occurs between first trying the drug and the second time of using it. The term “chasing the dragon” refers specifically to a common method of administering the drug – that method being – smoking it on a piece of tin foil. Heroin prepared for smoking is put on a square/rectangle of foil and a tube is also made which is used to inhale through, the heroin is put on the rectangle of foil and the tube in the users mouth, the heroin is heated from below by a flame and turns from its powdered form to a viscous (thick) almost liquid state, the foil is angled so the now liquefied drug runs from one end of the foil to the other with the user following along behind (*CHASING*) the heated substance whilst inhaling the resulting smoke through the tube. The “dragon” in ‘chasing the dragon’ refers to the smoke inhaled from the heated heroin which is ‘chased’ back and forth along the length of the foil. The term was probably first coined by Chinese/asiatic users who have a strong affinity for dragons and an historic penchant for the smoking of opiates/opiods. “Chasing the dragon” is nothing, repeat nothing – to do with any requirement to increase ones dosage. New users should NOT and do NOT NEED to increase the amount of heroin they take from the first time to the second, any increase in dose should only occur when tolerance has been acquired and only then with great caution and awareness of what one is doing.


Glastonicus Asiaticus.

12:41 am November 29th, 2013

This question is not for me it’s for my son. I know he’s using herion or some other kind of opiate. He swears he isn’t using but he is ! I don’t know anything about this god awful drug but I do no it’s destroying my child! Please how do I get him help He is 26 and i don’t know what else to do

5:24 pm December 1st, 2013

Hello Christine. I’d suggest that you schedule an appointment with a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in family addiction issues…tomorrow. Get yourself help and support so that you can be clear on how to live your life, and to separate your caring for him with taking responsibility for him. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. My best to you, Christine.

9:08 am January 11th, 2014

Hi Christine, I’m in the same place u are. I’m scared and have found my son overdosed in a car after searching for hours. I did get him medical attention. However, 2 rehab centers,jail and u name it, nothing

9:31 am October 20th, 2014

I smoked it for three years family didn’t know I was doing it was one month shy of have being on it every day three time or more a day 4 years stright but my parent shipped me of to go live with my other parent I had to quite cold turkey no choice new state but I didn’t got threw withdraws or wanting it ether when I had to quite the people back home that I still was talking to was shocked by this saying that’s I possibale. But then why was I able to not have to go threw withdraws and the craving. So how is that possible since your the experts

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