Article originally published on MedlinePlus. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); Heroin; [updated 2021 Mar 17; cited 2022 Aug 10]; Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/heroin.html
Heroin is a white or brown powder or a black, sticky goo. It’s an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance in the seedpod of the Asian poppy plant. It can be mixed with water and injected with a needle. Heroin can also be smoked or snorted up the nose. All of these ways of taking heroin send it to the brain very quickly. This makes it very addictive.
Major health problems from heroin include miscarriages, heart infections, and death from overdose. People who inject the drug also risk getting infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
Regular use of heroin can lead to tolerance. This means users need more and more drug to have the same effect. At higher doses over time, the body becomes dependent on heroin. If dependent users stop heroin, they have withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, diarrhea and vomiting, and cold flashes with goose bumps.
NIH: National Institute on Drug Abuse
- Heroin (Drug Enforcement Administration)
- Heroin DrugFacts (National Institute on Drug Abuse)Also in Spanish
Diagnosis and Tests
- Drug Testing (National Library of Medicine)Also in Spanish
- Drug Use Screening Tests (National Library of Medicine)Also in Spanish
Treatments and Therapies
- Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction (National Institute on Drug Abuse)Also in Spanish
- What Can Be Done for a Heroin Overdose? (National Institute on Drug Abuse)Also in Spanish
- What Is Substance Abuse Treatment? A Booklet for Families (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) – PDFAlso in Spanish
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Statistics and Research
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References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Platelet-To-Lymphocyte and Neutrophil-To-Lymphocyte Ratios Predict Intestinal Injury in Male Heroin Addicts.
- Article: Changes in the development of opioid tolerance on re-exposure among people…
- Article: State-Level Prevalence and Associates of Opioid Dependence in the USA.
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Find an Expert
- Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
- Drug Enforcement Administration
- National Institute on Drug Abuse Also in Spanish
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- Partnership to End Addiction
- Heroin (Nemours Foundation)Also in Spanish
- Tips for Teens: The Truth about Heroin (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) – PDF