How does heroin work?

Heroin works by affecting the opioid receptors in the brain, disrupting endorphin production. Heroin also depresses nervous system function. More on how heroin works in the body and the brain here.

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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
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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