Can you get high on heroin?

Yes, you can get high on heroin. In fact, heroin is known to trigger extreme euphoria by interacting with neurotransmitters in the central nervous system. More on heroin’s euphoric effect here.

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Yes. Heroin is known to create extreme euphoria (a deep sense of well-being) . However, heroin’s addictive qualities and heroin abuse side effects are well documented. How does heroin produce euphoric effect? We review here. And invite your questions about

Psychoactive ingredients of heroin

Heroin comes from the German word heroisch (that means/meaning) powerful and heroic, or strong. Derived from morphine, heroin is a highly addictive drug, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of certain varieties of poppy plants (Papaver somniferum), grown in Asia, Mexico and Colombia. When consumed, heroin triggers extreme sedation and euphoria by interacting with neurotransmitters in the central nervous system.

Diacetylmorphine is the main psychoactive ingredient in heroin; two additional components of heroin are morphine and acetic anhydride, without which heroin cannot be made. Heroin can be used by dissolving in water and injecting it into a vein, muscle or under the skin, and also can be smoked or snorted.

Heroin, euphoria, and euphoric effect

The psychoactive ingredients can produce an intensely pleasurable sensation called a “rush” that occurs within seconds after injection and lasts for up to a few minutes. The “rush” is followed by a tranquil phase (or “on the nod”), lasting few hours and characterized by a sense of happiness, relaxation and an absence of emotional and physical pain.

The euphoric effects of heroin occur within seconds after injection, or minutes after smoking or snorting because of the time it needs to reach the brain. The effects of heroin usually last for about three to five hours. The initial state is euphoria, or the so called “rush”, is accompanied by a warm flashing of the skin, a dry mouth and heavy extremities. Then the user reaches the second state “on the nod” for several hours – a period of alternating between a wakeful and drowsy state. Other short-term effects can include dry mouth, nausea, vomiting and severe itching.

Heroin and central nervous system effects

Heroin acts as a depressant on the central nervous system, since the brain contains numerous opiate receptors. Heroin and morphine are both chemically similar to endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, as they all bind to those opiate receptors related to pain, movement and emotion. Once in the brain,  heroin is converted to morphine by enzymes; the morphine binds to opiate receptors in certain areas of the brain. This is what creates both pain relief and nervous system depression. However, the chemical interaction with the brain’s neurotransmitters can also cause clouded mental functioning and breathing may slow down to the point of respiratory failure.

Drugs that contain heroin

To boost profits, dealers usually sell mixed heroin with other substances, such as glucose, talc or bleach. From the other side, drug abusers also make combinations with heroin and other depressants, such as sleeping pills, tranquillizers, methadone or alcohol, in order to increase the higher effects of heroin.

A “speedball”, also referred to “powerballing” is a combination of two substances, cocaine and heroin, where one acts as a stimulant, and the other acts as a depressant. Heroin and cocaine in combination result in intense rush of euphoria with a high that combines both effects of the drugs, while excluding the negative effects, such as anxiety and sedation. A combination of cocaine and heroin carries a particularly high risk of fatal overdose for the respiratory depression.

Getting high on heroin

Drug abusers report that by consuming heroin they reach a transcendent state of euphoria more intense than any other opiate or opioid. But getting high on heroin repeatedly is a definite sign of heroin addiction.  Nonethless, different routes of administration trigger different onset heroin effects for an individual.

Intravenous injection is considered to be the fastest route of drug administration, causing a “rush” because of direct injection of the drug in the blood. The intense rush is an outcome of the heroin being metabolized into 6-monoacetymorphine (6-MAM) and morphine in the brain and it occurs when a large amount of heroin enter the body at once. On the other hand, nasal and oral routes may not stimulate an equal “rush” because the drug is absorbed more slowly rather than instantly. However, since it is highly-addictive drug, individuals increase the heroin doses and take the faster administration routes, therefore resulting in higher potential risk for psychological addiction.

When do people get addicted to heroin?

Heroin is the most addictive drug on the world, making users physical and psychological dependent though a frequent and regular administration. Simply speaking, tolerance develops quickly, and increased doses are needed in order to achieve the same effects. Some of the risks that accompany heroin usage include:

  • abscesses
  • blood diseases such as: HIV and hepatitis by the sharing of needles
  • failure of internal organs
  • poisoning from other unknown substances combined with heroin
  • reducing the work of the respiratory system to death

Getting high on heroin questions

Do you still have questions about heroin or getting high? Please leave your questions in the comments section below. We do our best to respond to all questions personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: CESAR FAX: Heroin
DEA Drug fact sheet: Heroin
Crime Profile Fact Sheets: Heroin
Health Canadians: Heroin
NIDA Drug Facts
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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