Soon after injection (or inhalation), heroin crosses the blood-brain barrier. In the brain, heroin is converted to morphine and binds quickly to opioid receptors. Abusers normally report feeling a surge of pleasurable sensation, a “rush.” The intensity of the rush is a function of how much heroin is taken and how quickly the substance enters the brain and binds to the natural opioid receptors. Heroin is extremely addictive because it enters the brain so quickly. With heroin, the rush is normally accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth, and a heavy feeling in the extremities, which may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and severe itching.
Short-term effects of heroin
- Depressed respiration
- Clouded mental functioning
- Nausea and vomiting
- Suppression of pain
- Spontaneous abortion
After the initial effects, heroin abusers normally will feel drowsy for few hours. Mental function is clouded by heroin’s effect on the CNS. Cardiac functions slow. Breathing is also severely slowed, sometimes to the point of death. Heroin overdose is a particular risk on the street, where the amount and purity of the substance cannot be accurately known.
Heroin Effects: Long Term
One of the most detrimental long-term effects of heroin is addiction itself. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing problem, characterized by compulsive heroin seeking and use, and by neurochemical and molecular changes in the brain. Heroin also produces profound degrees of tolerance for the drug and physical dependence, which are also powerful motivating reasons for compulsive use and abuse. As with abusers of any addictive substance, heroin abusers gradually spend more and more time and energy obtaining and using the heroin. Once they are addicted, the heroin abusers’ main purpose in life becomes seeking and using drugs. Heroin literally change their brains.
Long-term effects of heroin
- Collapsed veins
- Bacterial infections
- Infection of heart lining and valves
- Arthritis and other rheumatologic problems
- Infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C