Heroin is a Schedule I opioid drug synthesized from morphine, a natural substance extracted from the opium poppy plant. Administration methods for heroin include injecting, snorting, sniffing, smoking, and ingesting. The dangers of snorting heroin carry a range of severe short-term and long-term risks on the mind and body, including issues with nasal and oral health, physical and mental health, and addiction and overdose.
Understanding The Risks of Heroin Use
As a highly addictive opioid, heroin is commonly used and abused for its relaxing effects and pain relief. Heroin binds to opioid receptors in the brain, particularly those responsible for feelings of pain and pleasure and controlling heart rate, sleeping, and breathing. Chronic heroin use puts those at a greater risk of developing a heroin addiction or substance use disorder (SUD). Heroin can depress breathing and heart rate, leading to life-threatening situations. A heroin overdose can result in unconsciousness, coma, or death, especially when mixed with other drugs or alcohol.
When physically dependent users stop taking heroin, they can experience severe withdrawal symptoms, including muscle pain, restlessness, sleep problems, diarrhea, and vomiting. Long-term heroin use can exacerbate existing mental health issues or contribute to new ones, such as depression, anxiety, or paranoia. Chronic use can cause health problems, including liver or kidney disease, lung complications, and various infections. Injecting heroin poses a high risk of catching HIV, hepatitis B and C, and other blood-borne viruses, particularly when sharing needles or other injecting equipment.
Under the influence of heroin, individuals often experience impaired judgment and tend to engage in risky behaviors, which can have significant legal and health consequences. Heroin use often strains relationships, potentially leading to job loss, financial difficulties, or even homelessness. The composition of street heroin can vary significantly in purity and might be mixed with other substances, increasing the risk of overdose. Over time, users might develop a tolerance to heroin, needing more of the drug to achieve the same effects, leading to an opioid use disorder (OUD).
Understanding Heroin and Its Effects on the Body
Snorting heroin, administrated by inhaling the drug through the nose, also known as sufflation, has several short-term and long-term effects on the body and mind. The impact of heroin use varies depending on the individual, drug purity, and how frequently it is used.
The short-term effects of heroin use can include:
- Drowsiness and sedation
- Pain relief
- Reduced anxiety
- Emotional numbing
- Suppressed appetite
- Respiratory depression
Initially, users may experience a rush of euphoria due to dopamine release in the brain. When the mu-opioid receptors (MORs) bind with the neurotransmitters, they stimulate the release of feel-good hormones and feelings of well-being. Following the initial rush, there is typically a period of sedation or drowsiness where users appear sleepy, “nodding out,” or off. Heroin is a potent opioid painkiller, providing users significant relief from physical pain. Users often experience reduced feelings of anxiety and a sense of calm, along with emotional numbing. One of the most dangerous effects of heroin is the opioid-induced respiratory depression, which can lead to fatal respiratory failure. Especially in the case of an opioid overdose, heroin-induced respiratory failure can be reversed through the lifesaving medication naloxone (Narcan).
Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use
The long-term effects of heroin on the mind and body can include:
- Addiction and dependence
- Opioid tolerance
- Withdrawal symptoms
- Nasal damage
- Mental health issues
- Weakened immune system
- Relationship problems
- Financial struggles
Regular use of heroin leads to physical and psychological dependence, which causes users to continue using it to avoid experiencing withdrawal symptoms. This physical dependence leads to an increased tolerance to the drug, requiring increasingly larger doses to achieve the same effects. Heroin insufflation (snorting) can damage the mucosal tissues in the nose and sinus structures, leading to sinusitis, nosebleeds, loss of sense of smell, and a perforated septum. Long-term opioid use can contribute to the development or exacerbation of mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Taking heroin can weaken the immune system, making the user more susceptible to infections and sickness. Addiction can lead to a range of social and financial issues, including strained relationships, job loss, and economic instability.
The Hidden Dangers of Snorting Heroin
While there is generally no safe method to use heroin, snorting heroin, also known as insufflation, has many hidden dangers and risks outside of the expected effects of heroin use. Snorting heroin can damage the nasal passages and the mucous membranes in the nose, leading to chronic nasal issues. Hypoventilation, or respiratory depression, can have fatal effects leading to respiratory failure or cardiac arrest with heroin use. Street drugs like heroin are known for drug impurities, often containing unknown additives and contaminants that can be harmful. The risk of cross-mixing or lacing heroin with other potent opioids like fentanyl can be lethal and significantly increase opioid overdose risks. Snorting heroin poses both long-term physical and mental health issues, including liver and kidney disease, heart problems, anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
Like most opioid drugs, heroin is a highly addictive substance regardless of how it is administrated. A dependency on heroin can develop both physically and psychologically, progressing from an addiction into an opioid disorder. Treating a heroin addiction begins with a medical detox treatment to rid the body of the substance and undergo the heroin withdrawal process. While the heroin withdrawal symptoms are rather uncomfortable, medical detox facilities offer 24/7 assistance and care to help mitigate the symptoms and overall process.
Detox Treatment for Heroin Addiction in Stuart, Florida
Seeking addiction treatment and medical detox for heroin addiction is the first step to choosing a healthier life for yourself in sobriety. With medical detox being the first step in addiction recovery, Coastal Detox offers heroin detox for those struggling with heroin abuse looking to quit and get sober. Our opioid detox programs consist of medication-assisted treatment (MAT), psychotherapy and counseling, and around-the-clock support from medical professionals. The length of detox depends on a variety of factors, including the patient’s age, body composition, mental health state, heroin tolerance level, etc.
Coastal Detox’s heroin detox programs in Stuart, FL, are provided for those struggling with heroin addiction and looking for a safe and comfortable facility to recover.
It’s time for you to take back your life and get sober. Reach out to us today!
- Drug Enforcement Administration, 2020. Drug Fact Sheet: Heroin.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. Heroin DrugFacts.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. What effects does heroin have on the body?
- PubMed, 2012. Non-analgesic effects of opioids: opioid-induced respiratory depression.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lifesaving Naloxone.
- Peyrière, H., Léglise, Y., Rousseau, A., Cartier, C., Gibaja, V., & Galland, P., 2013. Substance Abuse: Necrosis of the Intranasal Structures and Soft Palate as a Result of Heroin Snorting: A Case Series.
- National Institutes of Health, 2023. When Addiction and Mental Illness Collide.