Heroin is a highly addictive, highly potent drug that comes from the opium poppy flower. While it’s been illegal in the United States since the 1920s, it is still a very popular recreational drug of choice. Due to its highly addictive nature, many people who use heroin find themselves addicted to the substance very quickly. 

Prolonged heroin use can wreak havoc, resulting in long-term effects of heroin on the body. Additionally, it can change the chemical makeup of the brain, also resulting in mental health issues. Let’s take a look at some of these long-term effects associated with regular and prolonged heroin use as well as treatment options for those who find themselves suffering from heroin addiction.

Why Is Heroin Popular?

Unfortunately, prescription painkillers and opioids are some of the most commonly abused drugs on the market. In many cases, people are medically prescribed opioids and find themselves getting hooked on them through no fault of their own. Once they become addicted, and they can no longer obtain them legally through a doctor’s prescription, they will turn to other, cheaper ways of achieving the same feelings that those opioids produced. 

That’s where heroin comes in.


From both a chemical perspective as well as the way it makes you feel, both prescription opioids and heroin are very similar. Heroin can give you the same “high” that prescription painkillers can at a fraction of the price on the street. From the standpoint of what it can do to the body though, it can also be significantly more dangerous.

What Can Heroin Do to the Body?

Just like an opioid, heroin binds to the opioid receptors in the brain. This is what produces the “euphoria” that is constantly being chased by those who find themselves dependant on the drug. Whether ingested intravenously, which is the most common way or via snorting or smoking, heroin is so potent and addicting that sometimes all it takes is one or two uses to start growing dependant or addicted to the substance. The body can also grow a tolerance to heroin very quickly, meaning you need more and more of it every time to achieve your desired results. 

Long-term, prolonged heroin use can cause problems to both the body and the brain, in some cases even changing a person’s overall brain chemistry. This can lead to both debilitating physical and mental ailments that someone may have never even experienced before they started using heroin. 

What Are the Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Heroin on the Body?

Heroin use can have immediate impacts on the body and brain beyond the “high” that comes along with using it. Here are some of both the short-term and long-term effects that heroin usage can have on the body and the brain.

Short-Term Effects of Heroin on the Body

Almost immediately after taking heroin for the first time, a person will begin to experience a variety of physical effects. Typically the more heroin that is ingested, the more severe these physical effects can be. Some common physical side effects that are felt almost immediately include:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Flushed skin
  • A slowed heart rate
  • Slowed breathing
  • Increased body temperature
  • Heaviness in both the arms and legs
  • Dry mouth
  • Overdose

While with many drugs, overdose tends to be a long-term effect that happens with prolonged usage, that’s not typically the case with heroin. That’s because heroin directly impacts the neurochemical activity in the brain that is directly responsible for both breathing and controlling the body’s heart rate. Too much heroin, whether it’s the first time using it or the 50th time using it, can result in the heart rate dropping to a dangerously low level as well as slow or evens topped breathing. 

Long-Term Effects of Heroin on the Body

Why Is Heroin Popular

Long-term heroin use can not only cause physical issues but mental ones as well. Prolonged heroin use can actually change the chemical makeup of a person’s brain, possibly resulting in debilitating mental conditions. 

Some of the more common long-term effects of heroin on the body might include:

  • Infertility
  • Insomnia
  • Malnutrition
  • Skin problems
  • Damaged teeth
  • Inflamed gums
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Weakened immune system
  • Constipation
  • Cold sweats
  • Collapsed veins
  • Blood infections
  • Heart infections

In addition, depending on how you use the heroin can result in additional long-term issues. Those who inject it run the risk of HIV, tissue damage, and even bacterial infections if they are sharing needles. Individuals who snort or smoke heroin might encounter lung problems such as pneumonia after a while. Additionally, the toxins in heroin can lead to issues such as arthritis as well.  

What Are Some Signs of Heroin Abuse?

While some people might show easy, visible signs of heroin abuse and addiction, it’s not always obvious. That’s why it’s important to know some of the common signs to look for when it comes to spotting heroin abuse and addiction. Some of the more common signs to be on the lookout for if you fear that someone you know is suffering from a heroin addiction include:

  • Stealing
  • Isolation
  • Itching
  • Flushed skin
  • Constipation
  • Legal trouble
  • Upset stomach
  • Having drug paraphernalia 
  • Trouble at work or school
  • Referring to heroin in slang terms
  • Withdrawl from friends and family
  • Mood swings or other behavioral changes
  • Track marks on the arms or other parts of the body from repeated injection

As someone becomes more and more dependant on heroin these signs might become easier and easier to spot. You may notice that they are hanging out with a new group of people that are also using. If you or someone you know is suffering from an addicrtion to heroin, it is important to get help immediately before it is too late.

How Can I Get Help For Heroin Addiction?

Getting professional help for heroin addiction is vital for someone’s overall health and well-being both short-term and long-term. Withdrawal symptoms associated with stopping taking heroin can be extreme and include:

  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Cold flashes
  • Restlessness 
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Uncontrolled kicking movements
Long-Term Effects of Heroin on the Body

As a result of the severity of these withdrawal symptoms, it is crucial to undergo the detox and withdrawal process under the care and supervision of trained medical professionals. This can be done at either a medical facility that offers detox services, a dedicated detox center, or a treatment center that also provides detox services such as Coastal Detox. Any attempt at self-detoxing can be incredibly dangerous and even life-threatening.

Once detox is complete, heroin addiction treatment can begin. The type of treatment will vary based on a variety of factors such as the severity of the addiction as well as if there are any mental health-related issues as well, known as co-occurring disorders

The most common treatment method is inpatient treatment. During inpatient treatment, the person lives at the treatment center for the duration of their treatment program. Inpatient treatment incorporates a variety of treatment methods including both individual and group therapy sessions where you discover what contributed to the development of your addiction. You can also learn how to live your life going forward without the need for addictive substances.

In addition to the standard inpatient treatment services that are available, Coastal Detox also offers a variety of alternative and holistic treatments and therapies such as:

Preventing the Long-Term Effects of Heroin on the Body

Heroin is a popular drug due to the fact that it mimics that of opioids and other painkillers but can be obtained at a fraction of the cost. It is also significantly more addictive and can be a lot more harmful to both the body and the brain. 

At Coastal Detox we understand just how dangerous heroin can be. That’s why we offer not just detox programs specifically for heroin addiction but treatment programs as well. If you or someone you know is suffering from heroin addiction or an addiction to another substance, contact us immediately. It is our goal to successfully treat every person that comes to us and help them lead a happy, healthy, and sober life.