Injecting Heroin: The Long and Short-Term Effects

Heroin Injection

Injecting heroin is both illegal, dangerous and extremely addictive. Heroin is a drug processed from morphine, a substance found in certain poppy plants’ seed pods. Heroin is a fast-acting opiate, and when injected, causes a surge of euphoria that arrives within seconds. The effects of heroin use can range from short to long-term and typically have devastating consequences that can last a lifetime.

Short-Term Heroin Effects

When heroin enters the brain, the brain converts it to the opioid compound morphine. Morphine causes a rush of euphoria that makes it difficult to stop using opioids. The intensity of the rush depends on the speed of its entry into the brain and the amount taken. These effects may also come with side effects such as dry mouth, warm-feeling skin and heavy-feeling extremities. Other short-term effects are nausea, vomiting, pain in the upper abdomen and severe itching.

After the initial effects, users are usually extremely drowsy for several hours. It is not abnormal for a heroin user to abruptly fall asleep on the spot. They can have clouded mental function and slower breathing and heart function. The depressed respiratory system associated with heroin use can result in permanent brain damage or a coma. Additional heroin misuse side effects include:

  • Reduced sense of pain
  • Agitation
  • Coordination problems
  • Confusion
  • Constipation
  • Attention and memory issues

These health problems can reduce your quality of life and make it more difficult to function as you did before heroin use. They can also cause further complications.

Tolerating Heroin

Heroin’s short-term side effects become less prominent as someone increases their exposure to it. A person’s body gets used to heroin’s effects as they take more of it over time. This process, known as tolerance, also reduces the sensations that heroin causes, motivating the user to take more. It takes the person more uses to feel the same level of euphoria they did from previous times.

As someone builds a tolerance to heroin, their body also begins to rely on its chemicals instead of the ones produced by the brain. These chemicals include the ones responsible for positive feelings and pain relief. As a result, the person needs to use heroin to reach typical levels of happiness and pain resistance, as well as to prevent the physical symptoms of withdrawal when heroin is not present after a tolerance has been developed. When they stop using heroin, they begin to feel more of these symptoms and have mood changes.

Common symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:

  • Cravings to use heroin
  • Goosebumps
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating

If you have severe withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop using heroin, an opioid use disorder clinic can help. A treatment center such as BAART programs can help you manage your withdrawal symptoms to assist you in recovery. We’ll discuss the benefits of these clinics later in this guide.

Mental Effects of Heroin

The mental impact of heroin has long-term consequences. A few short-term mental effects of heroin abuse include poor decision making and damage to critical thinking abilities. However, heroin’s prolonged effects on the brain cause much higher risks because of the ways it becomes accustomed to opioids. As heroin use trains the brain to become accustomed to it’s presence, the brain reduces the amount of natural hormones it produces naturally in response to pleasure or pain. As this pattern continues, it results in the brain always needing heroin or other opioids to eliminate withdrawal symptoms as it is no longer producing the hormones on it’s own.

Heroin use disorder’s impact on your brain’s structure and function can result in behaviors such as:

  • Trying to reduce heroin use but having little success
  • Performing risky behaviors such as having unprotected sex or driving while under the influence
  • Injecting illicit drugs and possibly sharing needles
  • Continuing to use heroin even when you know the risks

Your brain’s increased need for opioids may cause you to take part in these behaviors, but with treatment and support, you can work on your well-being.

Long-Term Heroin Effects on Social, Mental and Physical Health

The effects of prolonged heroin use can have destructive effects on your physical well-being. If you inject heroin, the frequent injections can cause infections or the spread of communicable diseases. Some people who use heroin develop tuberculosis or arthritis because of its impact on their body. Over time, users withdraw from their normal lives, activities and obligations and life begins to revolve around seeking out and being in the haze of a heroin high.

A person who has a heroin addiction can face social challenges such as:

  • Educational or professional hardships: Using an opioid like heroin can cause issues in work or school. A person with heroin use disorder may lose interest in work or school activities that they used to enjoy. They could have a drop in work performance or lower grades. Some people with opioid use disorder begin to miss more work or school days.
  • Financial problems: When someone has a heroin addiction, they may have financial issues related to the drug’s cost. The urge to use heroin can become so strong that the patient feels tempted to steal items or money. They might request money from friends or loved ones without explanation. Since an opioid use disorder involving heroin can interfere with work, it can also make it more difficult to maintain employment.
  • Neglected appearance: The energy and mood issues associated with opioid use disorder can make it hard to take care of oneself. Someone with a heroin addiction may pay less attention to their appearance than before, possibly neglecting regular grooming habits or hygiene.

These challenges in social functioning can have an impact on emotional health. The stress resulting from financial, educational or professional difficulties may increase the severity of the mental health symptoms associated with opioid use disorder. By resolving the social issues that come from heroin addiction, a patient can also improve their mental health.

How Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Can Help You Recover From Heroin Addiction

In medication-assisted treatment (MAT), you take an FDA-approved medication that satisfies your brain’s need for opioids. Your doctor supervises your medicine use so that it relieves your withdrawal symptoms while helping you commit to your treatment goals which include counseling. When you participate in a MAT program, you will likely use methadone or buprenorphine as a part of your recovery program. The medication that you and your doctor choose depends on your symptoms and situation.

Get Compassionate Help Today

BAART Programs helps patients across the United States work toward opioid-free lives. To learn more about our services or find a nearby location, we welcome you to contact our office staff. You can also call us at 844-341-4040 to speak with one of our representatives. Let us help you take the path to a healthy recovery.

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