What Using Heroin Can Do to Your Body

The effects of heroin on the body are reciprocal: the greater the intensity of the pleasure, the greater risk of negative consequences. No one seeks the negative effects, but you do not get to choose how the drug affects your body, either. There is a price to pay for the rush of heroin, and that price can be not only your health but even your life.

If analyzing the risk-reward ratio was a part of the decision-making process in first using heroin, it is unlikely that anyone would intentionally seek out this powerful and very addictive drug. This is because the negative side effects of using heroin, including the risk of overdose and death, often outweigh the pleasurable side effects. The opioid epidemic would never have become such a public health crisis if everyone understood just what heroin can do to the human body.

What Makes Heroin So Addictive?

Many different factors come together to make heroin such an addictive drug. One of the most obvious factors is your body quickly develops a tolerance for the drug. This means that your body becomes used to the positive side effects of heroin, and thus requires a larger dose of the drug more and more frequently to maintain the pleasurable effects of the drug. Tolerance quickly leads to dependence, in which the body experiences withdrawals in between drug use. Heroin dependence quickly leads to heroin addiction, sometimes to the point where accessing and using heroin becomes the sole purpose in your life.

Another factor in the addictive nature of heroin is that the drug binds itself to opioid receptors in the brain, blocking pain and creating intense pleasurable sensations. This triggers the reward pathway, causing intense cravings for more heroin. This incredibly addictive cycle creates chemical and physical changes in the brain that are not always reversible.

Short-Term Side Effects of Heroin

In addition to the sought-after pleasurable or euphoric short-term side effects, there are several not as pleasant short-term side effects, including:

  • A warm, flushed feeling on the skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Impaired or cloudy mental function
  • A heavy feeling in the arms and legs
  • A state of alternating consciousness
  • Drowsiness
  • Slowing of both breathing and heart function
  • Overdose and death

Long-Term Side Effects of Heroin

Where heroin causes the most damage to your body are the long-term side effects. These may include, but are not limited to: 

  • Depression and other mental disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Lung problems such as pneumonia
  • Infection of the valves and lining of the heart
  • Constipation, stomach cramping
  • Abscesses
  • Collapsed veins or damaged nose tissue depending on the method used
  • Increased risk for HIV or Hepatitis C
  • Irregular menstrual cycles (females)
  • Sexual dysfunction (males)
  • Hypoxia, or decreased oxygen to the brain, possibly causing coma or brain damage
  • Overdose and death

How to Prevent Further Harm

While stopping the use of heroin can improve your health, many of these side effects are irreversible. The opioid epidemic has raised not only an awareness of the risk of overdose and death but also the consequences of long-term heroin addiction as compared to the consequences of heroin treatment. Those who can effectively learn how to beat addictions have a significantly larger chance of survival. 

Seeking treatment for heroin addiction also prevents further harm, including the risk of overdose. Because of the high number of deaths related to the opioid epidemic and specifically heroin, it is important to seek appropriate medical supervision when attempting to quit using heroin.

Breaking Free of Heroin Addiction

Despite the incredibly addictive nature of heroin, it is possible to break free. Medical advances now allow for medication-assisted treatment (MAT), using medications that help to decrease withdrawal symptoms and enhance your ability to break free of heroin addiction. MAT makes what seemed to be an impossible task more bearable and has helped with the recovery of many people who may not have been able to break free without it. Learning how to beat addictions is difficult, but not impossible. Choosing heroin treatment is making a choice for the health of your body.


Knowing the potential consequences to your body of using heroin may be a wake-up call for you to preserve your health and even save your life. Learn more about how to beat heroin addictions by contacting DiscoveryMD. We have seen firsthand how heroin affects the body, and we want to help you avoid any further damage. Our caring and compassionate staff will help you to get through each day of treatment and on to the recovery path. Your life may literally depend on it.

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