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Heroin is a highly addictive drug. And overdose is a real, and deadly risk.


Smack, horse, brown sugar, dope, H, junk, skag, skunk, white horse, China white, Mexican black tar

What is it?

Heroin is an opiate, a class of drugs that are either naturally derived from the flowers of the poppy plant, or synthetic substitutes. In the case of heroin, it’s produced from morphine, a naturally occurring substance that comes from the seedpod of poppy plants. All opiate abuse, including heroin and many prescriptions painkillers, carries a strong risk of addiction and physical dependence. Heroin is abused by injecting, snorting or smoking it, and all three can cause the same level of addiction, as well as serious health problems.1

The Risks

Heroin enters the brain very quickly, making it particularly addictive. It’s estimated that almost one-fourth of the people who try heroin become addicted.1 And over time, heroin users develop a tolerance, meaning that more and more of the drug is needed to achieve the same results.

It is extremely easy to not only become addicted, but to become physically dependent on heroin as well.2Physical dependence occurs when your body adapts to the drug’s presence, causing withdrawal – symptoms include muscle and bone pain, diarrhea and vomiting – when use stops. Chronic heroin users can begin experiencing withdrawal in as little as a few hours.

Heroin suppresses breathing, which is why using heroin always carries the risk of overdose and death.1 Also, heroin often has additives that will not dissolve in the bloodstream. This can easily cause a blood clot to form and travel to the lungs, liver, heart or brain, which is instantly fatal.

Long-Term Effects

In a short amount of time, regular heroin use destroys the body. Common conditions that plague heroin users include infection of the heart lining and valves, liver disease, lung disease, and hepatitis and HIV/AIDS from needle use.

The Bottom Line

It’s a fast high, but just as quickly, it can take over your life, and become fatal. Heroin and other opiate addictions are treatable, but the path to recovery requires a commitment that can often last years or even decades.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. DrugFacts: Heroin.
    Revised April 2013. Retrieved May 2013.
    View Source
  2. Drug Enforcement Agency. Drug Fact Sheet: Heroin.
    Retrieved July 2011.
    View Source