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Article Summary

How Heroin is Used and What are its Effects?

Heroin is the illegal name of diacetylmorphine which, as the name suggests is made from morphine. Morphine, a drug used to alleviate pain is made from a plant called opium poppy.

Pure heroin looks like a white crystalline substance while illegal heroin, also known as freebase heroin is a white powder. Pure heroin, since it has a low boiling point can be smoked and is also used by many abusers. Nearly 87% of the heroin produced comes from Afghanistan where the opium plant is grown widely.

Effects of Heroin

The effects of heroin vary with people and the amount they have taken. But most people, within minutes of consuming the drug, will get the desired result- what they call as a 'high' or 'rush'. The sense of euphoria, feeling of being warm and confident follows. It may also make them feel drowsy with impaired speech ability and blurred vision. Like morphine, heroin also works to alleviate pain and worries.

Other effects of heroin include vomiting, headaches and mood swings.

How Heroin is used

The effects of heroin are determined by its methods of administration. The pleasure or 'high' of using heroin is depended upon its concentration in the blood. Administration methods like injecting the drug is found to be the most effective way of using heroin since the concentration of the drug is raised fast in the blood. So, a drug abuser's favorite method would be injection followed by others like smoking, snorting and ingestion.

Ingestion is the least preferred method for using heroin since it a less effective way of getting a high. It will take only second for a person to experience the pleasure if injected with heroin. But, if he has orally consumed the drug, it will take nearly half a hour to experience a high.

The risk of addiction is not only depended on the dosage but also on the administration method too. Higher dosages administered through faster routes may make a person prone to addiction than someone who uses a lower dosage through ingestion.

-Oral Administration

Oral administration of heroin is the least preferred way of administering it. This is mainly due to the fact that it will take a longer period for the user to experience the result. And even when the effects are settling in, it is much lower than other forms of using the drug. Heroin, when it reaches the body is transformed into morphine by metabolism. So when it is administered orally it will take a long time for it to be converted to morphine. Another thing is that oral administration requires higher dosages to get the expected high.


Smoking is one of the widely used ways of consuming heroin. Many people mistakenly think that this method involves burning the drug and inhaling it. Actually, smoking is done by heating up the drug until it vaporizes and then inhaling the fumes. Heroin has a low boiling point. So it is easy to melt it. The specific instruments used to smoke heroin include glass pipes and light bulbs. In another method, heroin is kept on an aluminium foil which is then heated over a flame to vaporize it.


Injection is the most widely used and most preferred method of administering heroin. It is the most effective way of getting pleasure fast but this also involves higher risk of overdosing.

In Europe, the heroin powder is mixed with acid, either lemon juice or citric acid powder, and heated in order to dissolve in water. But the heroin found in the US does not need acid to dissolve in water. This liquid is taken into a syringe and injected into veins. The drug is injected into the veins on arms and legs which are easy to locate. But for habitual drug users, these veins could collapse any time forcing them to use the veins in the groin and neck.


There are no researches done on the suppository form of administering heroin. In this method he drug inserted through the vagina or the anal opening. The dissolved heroin is inserted by the use of a syringe into these areas.

-Insufflation or Snorting

Snorting is another popular method for heroin users. The drug is made into a fine powder and then inhaled, normally using a glass pipe. It is absorbed directly into the blood stream through the mucus membrane. This is preferred by many users as it does not take much time to prepare.

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