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Adverse Effects of Heroin Use

Introduction into the Problem

Drug addiction is a complex issue, with quitting being hard practically all of the time, with the person struggling with having to establish a strong will and adherence to a clinical plan. Addiction is a chronic disease that is characterized by the continuous seeking of drugs and using them in a compulsive and uncontrolled way, despite the harmful circumstances. Heroin is an opioid substance that is predominantly used as a recreational drug for the effect of euphoria. In most cases, heroin is injected into a vein but can also be inhaled, smoked, and snorted. The effects of the drug hurt both the physical and mental health of those using it, which is why spreading awareness is necessary to educate the public, especially young people, about why they should never try it.

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Short-Term Effects of Heroin Use

The use of heroin will have both long- and short-term effects on health. As soon as the substance enters the brain, it is converted into morphine and quickly binds to opioid receptors (Substance Abuse Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality). Those who use heroin usually report the immediate feeling of pleasure that occurs after injecting a dose of the drug. The intensity of pleasurable feelings, or a rush, represents a function of how much the drug is taken as well as how quickly it travels to the brain to bind with opioid receptors.

However, as the initial effects decrease, users can experience drowsiness, impaired mental function, and severely slowed breathing and heartbeat, which can be threatening to one’s life. In addition, slowed breathing can lead to permanent brain damage and coma. Breathing is affected because of the change in the neurochemical activity of the brain stem, which controls automatic body functions. In addition, the use of heroin can block pain messages that are transmitted from the body to the spinal cord.

Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use

The repeated use of heroin will change the physiology of the brain and its physical structure, thus leading to long-term neuron imbalances as well as disruptions in hormonal systems that cannot be easily reversed. Research has pointed out the severe deterioration of the white matter of the brain because of the use of heroin (National Institute on Drug Abuse). This can affect decision-making abilities, behaviors, and responses in stressful situations and emergencies. Besides, heroin can increase the physical dependence on the drug as well as tolerance, with the latter occurring when more and more substance is required to reach the same impact of the drug. Physical dependence is a problem because the body gets used to the intake of the drug, with withdrawal symptoms occurring in cases of abrupt refusal of the drug.


Symptoms of withdrawal have an adverse influence on health, both physical and psychological. They include but are not limited to restlessness, pain in bone and muscles, insomnia, cold flashes, goosebumps, vomiting, and leg movements. Severe withdrawal occurs between 24 to 48 hours after the last drug dose was consumed (Cutler 177). The symptoms will decline after a week since the last use; however, some can have withdrawal signs for several months. As a result of repeated drug use, it is possible to develop heroin use disorder, which is a chronic and relapsing disease that exceeds physical dependence. Individuals diagnosed with heroin use disorder will uncontrollably seek out the drug, despite the consequences of their actions.


It is important to educate the public about the need not to use heroin because of the risk of overdosing. The overdose of heroin, or dropping, is highly prevalent and can occur with anyone who uses the drug (Schiller and Mechanic). When a person overdoses, their breathing becomes slower, body temperature decreases while the heartbeat slows down. It is also possible to experience muscle twitching and sleepiness. However, more severe signs of overdose include vomiting, blue lips or fingernails, and toenail tips due to low oxygen concentration in the body (“Heroin”). An overdosed person can go into a coma or even die. Therefore, the impact of the drug on health is severe, and the disadvantages of its use outweigh the short-term feeling of euphoria that it brings.

Concluding Thoughts

Considering the adverse impact of heroin abuse is essential for pointing out the reasons for not using the drug. Substance use disorders cause people to seek out a new drug dose despite the consequences. Such people can become socially isolated from their friends and families and spend all the resources they have on purchasing heroin. The emotional, economic, and social burden of excessive heroin use represents a severe problem that requires addressing with the help of a reliable system of supports.

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Community and family interventions, as well as group treatments, represent tools for helping individuals with addiction deal with the mental aspect of their issue. Nevertheless, the current exploration showed that there are no positive outcomes of using heroin, which is why it is imperative to educate the public about its effects.

Works Cited

Cutler, Janis. Psychiatry. Oxford University Press, 2014.

“Heroin.” Your Room. Web.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Heroin.” Drug Abuse. 2018. Web.

Schiller, Elizabeth, and Oren Mechanic. “Opioid Overdose.” NCBI. 2019. Web.

Substance Abuse Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. “Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables.” SAMHSA. 2017. Web.

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