Certified National Drug & Alcohol Interventionists

The Toll Heroin Takes

The negative consequences of heroin use range from mild distress to unbearable withdrawals and life threatening danger include:

  • Dry, itchy skin and skin infections, such as staph
  • Constricted pupils and reduced night vision
  • Nausea and vomiting (following early use or high doses)
  • Constipation and loss of appetite
  • Menstrual irregularity or loss of menstrual cycle
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Scarring (“tracks”) along veins and collapsed veins from repeated injections
  • Irregular blood pressure
  • Slow and irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Fatigue, breathlessness, and labored, noisy breathing due to excessive fluid in the lungs (“the rattles”)
  • Injuries that result from engaging in any activity (such as working, driving, or operating machinery) when incapacitated by heroin use
  • Physical dependence, addiction
  • Hepatitis, AIDS, and other infections from unsanitary needles
  • Stroke or heart attack caused by blood clots resulting from insoluble additives
  • Respiratory paralysis, heart arrest, coma, and death from accidental overdose, in many cases users have died by choking on their on vomit

What is Heroin’s Behavioral Impact? The behavioral impact of habitual heroin use is generally devastating. Most habitual users are incapable of concentration, learning, or clear thought. Rarely are they able to hold a job. They are apathetic, indifferent to consequences, and unable to sustain personal relationships. For many, the inability to honestly earn enough to meet their drug needs leads to crime. For the overwhelming majority, compulsive use prompts behavior that is self-destructive and irresponsible, often antisocial, and characteristically indifferent to the injury, pain, or loss it causes others.

Can Heroin Addicts Recover? Yes, they can. Treatment takes various forms, and detoxification may be needed by some to manage the effects of withdrawal. The main thrust of treatment, however, addresses underlying causes of drug abuse and helps recovering abusers become more self-aware, self-reliant, responsible, and able to manage stress without the “crutch” of drugs.