While people seek out the euphoric rush associated with heroin use, it is often accompanied by dangerous side effects like clouded thinking, nausea, and depressed respiration. The respiratory effects can be especially serious for heroin users, as they can lead to lung complications. Overdose is always a possibility with every use of heroin, and this can lead to severe health effects, up to and including death.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), heroin can be consumed by smoking or snorting the drug, but the most dangerous method of use is via injection.
Injection Heroin Use
Long-term heroin use can cause a plethora of health complications, according to NIDA.
Physical dependence and addiction are common with a drug this powerful, and both can develop incredibly quickly once injection use starts.
Bacterial infection is one of the more serious dangers associated with shooting heroin. Spore-forming bacteria can enter the system via the syringe used for injection. These infections can spread throughout the body quickly and lead to dire consequences, such as paralysis and death.
Sharing NeedlesIt’s common for heroin users to share needles, and as bodily fluids are transmitted between users, the risk of contracting a blood-borne disease is high. HIV, the precursor to AIDS, is a blood-borne virus that can be contracted from sharing needles and can result in death. Hepatitis C is another blood-borne virus that is commonly transmitted through sharing needles. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), most people with hepatitis C contracted it via intravenous drug use. This condition becomes a long-term illness for the majority of people, and it often results in significant health problems.
Certain harm-reduction measures have been put in place to mitigate the chances of diseases spreading via injection drug use. For example, single-use syringes decrease instances of needle-sharing, and needle exchange programs are used in some communities.
The only foolproof way to avoid contracting these damaging diseases is to avoid injection drug use altogether.