Physical Side Effects of Heroin

The physical side effects of heroin include both long-term and short-term effects. Some of these include shallow breathing, nausea, an increased risk of infectious diseases, and withdrawal symptoms.

Like other opioid drugs, heroin is extremely addictive. This drug, which often comes in a white or brown powder, is made from the poppy plant.

The side effects of heroin may include a range of short-term and long-term physical complications.

Read on to learn more about the physical effects of abusing heroin.

Short-Term Physical Side Effects Of Heroin

Just like with other opioid drugs of abuse, heroin use creates a sense of euphoria, or high.

Heroin works by activating the brain’s opioid receptors, creating pleasure and pain relief. This activity in the brain can cause a number of immediate physical effects.

For example, one of the most common immediate effects is dry mouth.
Another common side effect is drowsiness. When using heroin, a person may struggle to stay awake. Even while awake, they may not have full awareness of their surroundings.

This is often referred to as “nodding off” or “heavy nodding,” coming in and out of consciousness.

Other short-term physical side effects of heroin include:

  • slowed heart rate
  • shallow breathing
  • nausea
  • itching

Long-Term Physical Side Effects Of Heroin

Heroin abuse can also cause long-term physical effects that impact a person’s skin, blood, and other functions of the body.

Some of the long-term physical effects of heroin include:

  • nasal tissue damage (from snorting)
  • abscesses (from injection)
  • damage to veins and blood vessels (from injections)
  • sexual dysfunction
  • menstrual cycle disruption
  • constipation
  • cramping

Heroin And The Risk Of Infection

As a result of using heroin, a person may also be at a higher risk of infection. These infections can lead to long-term bodily damage and disease.

Risk Of Infectious Diseases

The use of needles when injecting heroin increases the risk of infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

These diseases may cause a number of physical effects, such as:

  • liver disease
  • fatigue
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • shortness of breath
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • weight loss
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • Rashes

Organ And Tissue Damage

Even without the use of needles, heroin abuse can still lead to infection. Some people with heroin addiction have experienced infections of the heart, kidneys, and lungs.

Heroin Teeth

Drug addiction, including heroin addiction, can affect dental health. One of the physical effects of using heroin is “heroin teeth”.

Heroin use can damage teeth for several reasons. For example, heroin addiction can cause struggles with appearance and hygiene. Black tar heroin, with its dark color, can stain teeth.

Heroin Eyes

If you or a loved one deals with heroin addiction, you may notice changes in your eyes.

Unlike many other drugs, heroin and other opioids of abuse such as fentanyl cause constricted pupils instead of dilated pupils.

Learn more about heroin eyes here.

Physical Effects Of Heroin Withdrawal

Addiction to heroin creates physical dependence. With repeated heroin use, the brain and body start relying on the drug.

Once that drug is no longer being supplied to the brain, a person will go into withdrawal.

Some physical effects of heroin withdrawal include:

  • restlessness
  • uncontrollable leg movements
  • cold flashes
  • goosebumps
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting

How Are The Physical Effects Of Heroin Treated?

The physical effects of heroin can be treated in several ways.

One strategy is to provide harm reduction practices for needle use, such as safe injection sites, which can reduce the risk of HIV and other infectious diseases.

Other methods focus on treating the addiction itself. Some treatment centers offer medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help ease physical symptoms.

They may administer prescription medicines such as buprenorphine or methadone, gradually reducing the dosage to minimize withdrawal symptoms.

During a heroin overdose, naloxone can quickly reverse the harmful effects of heroin.

Get Heroin Addiction Treatment At Spring Hill Recovery Center

Substance use disorders are complicated, but treatment options are available.

Spring Hill Recovery Center offers personalized heroin addiction treatment. If you or someone you love has a heroin addiction, contact Spring Hill Recovery Center today.

  1. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention — Infectious Diseases, Opioids, And Injection Drug Use
  2. National Institute On Drug Abuse — Commonly Used Drugs Charts: Heroin
  3. National Institute On Drug Abuse — What Are The Immediate (Short-Term) Effects of Heroin Use?
  4. National Institute On Drug Abuse — What Are The Long-Term Effects Of Heroin Use?
  5. National Institute On Drug Abuse — What Is Heroin?

Written by Spring Hill Recovery Editorial Team

© 2024 Spring Hill Recovery | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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