Heroin use is one leading cause of overdose deaths in the U.S. each year. The American supply of heroin is manufactured by criminal drug cartels and smuggled into the country primarily through the Southern border with Mexico. It’s rarely pure, and It’s often cut (other substances added) with synthetic opioids, making it even more dangerous. In fact, almost 73% of drug overdose deaths involving opioids are from synthetic opioids, like fentanyl.
Heroin is also incredibly addictive. Many people claim to become addicted after a single use, and while they may believe so, it takes time for the body to develop a physical addiction to the drug. It’s actually the psychological effects, or the “high,” that users report that may hook them from the single-use. You’re probably wondering what a heroin high is like if it’s powerful enough for the user to continue using the drug.
What is a Heroin high like?
It’s not uncommon for people to be curious about the effects of heroin. We hear about it almost daily as the opioid epidemic ravages the nation. But that curiosity leads some to try and the drug to see what the big deal is. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a recreational or causal heroin user. It’s not like marijuana or alcohol, where some people shoot up only at parties or tailgates. Not a thing. People either use the drug regularly, or they don’t at all. Now, here’s what you clicked for: the tea on how heroin feels.
The first use of heroin is quite often a pleasant one. There’s a euphoric rush and a general sense of happiness or relief. You’ve probably heard people say they like the numbness to emotions that people enjoy. Physical pain, anxiety, depression float aways as the heroin reaches the brain. But only briefly as a heroin high typically lasts 15 to 30 minutes.
Heroin then binds to and activates specific receptors in the brain called mu-opioid receptors (MORs). Typically, our body’s own neurotransmitters bind with the receptors, which transmit information throughout the brain. The MORs activates the pleasure-reward center in the brain and cause the release of dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for making us feel good and a host of other functions, such as:
- Kidney and blood vessel function
- Heart rate
- Controls vomiting and nausea
- Pain processing
The externally induced release of dopamine tricks your body into thinking you just earned a reward like you’d feel after eating or sex. This creates positive reinforcement of the action taken, which in this case was ingesting heroin. A heroin high typically lasts 15 to 30 minutes.
Because it relieves anxiety and negative emotions, many people use opioids to escape life and traumatic events in their past. People with a history of trauma are more likely to use drugs and alcohol to relieve their emotions or distract from events directly responsible for negative feelings and anxiety. People chase the heroin high feeling because of the euphoria and detachment it causes. The heroin high is short-lived, and afterward, the person will feel very drowsy and can slip in and out of consciousness in what is referred to as nodding off.
Short-term heroin effects:
- Mood swings
- Dry mouth
- Depressed respiratory system
- Flushed skin
- Heavy extremities
How long does a heroin high last?
A heroin high begins quickly after the drug is consumed, but the pleasurable feelings only last a few minutes. After that, users will typically become tired or drowsy. The feelings of drowsiness and sluggishness that follow the initial heroin high can last for several hours. How heroin is ingested also affects how long the high lasts. When shooting or smoking heroin, the high is more intense and lasts longer than when it’s snorted. Usually, the high only lasts for 15 to 20 minutes.
Can I Try Heroin Once?
“What’s the big deal? I won’t get addicted. I’m not one of those drug addict types.” Famous words spoken by the vast majority of people who started with heroin. But the truth is, most people don’t get addicted to opioids by using heroin. At AspenRidge Recovery, we hear two stories about how people became addicted to heroin. The first version: someone suffered an injury or needed surgery, and a doctor prescribed painkillers⸺virtually all effective narcotic prescription painkillers belong to the opiate or opioid family. The second: a friend or relative had some extra pills left over from a prescription, and curiosity got the better of them. In both cases, people developed a dependence, and their tolerance increased. They began to feel the effects of opioid withdrawals (dope sick), which can be pretty uncomfortable and continued to use to prevent withdrawals. The black market cost became too high, and they switched to the much cheaper option, heroin. The point is, none of these people intended to use opiates regularly. They liked the initial feeling and started slowly.
Just don’t do it’s not worth it. The effects of all opiates are similar. If you’ve been prescribed OxyContin or Vicodin for an injury or following a medical procedure, you already know what it feels like to be high on opioids.
Is Smoking or Snorting Heroin Less Dangerous Injection?
You might still be thinking, “if I do try it, I won’t shoot up.” Using a needle to get high seems a little too hardcore and out of character for you? Well, it did to most people before they developed a dependence. Many users thought it would be safer to smoke or snort heroin. Contrary to that common misconception, “chasing the dragon ” or inhaling heroin smoke is the quickest way for heroin to reach the brain. And according to research conducted by The Neurological Insitute at the Clevland Medical Center, it can lead to “peculiar and often catastrophic brain complications.” While it may seem safer and less dramatic than shooting up smack, most people eventually use a needle.
It’s also virtually impossible to find pure, uncut heroin. It’s often laced with other substances, including fentanyl, so gauging the correct dose is a crapshoot. It’s cliche, but it’s a game of Russian Roulette. Accidental overdoses are common and often fatal. Snorting or smoking heroin wouldn’t expose the user to HIV, hepatitis, but heroin is never safe.
If you or someone you know is struggling with heroin addiction, give AspenRidge Recovery a call at 855-281-5588. We’ll create a treatment plan that unique to you and your situation. We accept most major insurance and have sliding-scare cash pay options.
Dangers of Heroin
Heroin is highly addictive and incredibly dangerous. The risks of HIV, multiple forms of hepatitis, infections, and overdose are real are commonplace. It’s also one of the most challenging habits to kick. Withdrawal is brutal and usually lasts an entire week, but symptoms can sometimes last months. People often struggle with heroin addiction for several years. Long term use can come with long term consequences, such as:
- Collapsed veins
- Blood clots
- Liver and kidney damage
- Serious lung infections
- Infection at injection site
- Viral and bacterial diseases
If you take anything away from this article, let it be this: it’s not worth the risk. Sure it’s unlikely that you’ll overdose and from a one-time use. But the danger is there. You might like the effects of heroin and try it a couple more times. What’s the harm? Well, that’s how everyone else who became hooked started. You’re not the first person to have these thoughts, and the road to heroin addiction is paved with ideas like this. Why take the risk? There are only two outcomes for people addicted to opiates: they get clean, or they die.
Our team of experienced and compassionate addiction specialists can help answer questions. AspenRidge Recovery is a leading provider of recovery programs in Colorado that help more individuals and families overcome the devastations that result from substance abuse. Whether you’re facing challenges with alcohol or drugs, our dual diagnosis center can point you in the right direction to begin developing the tools and skillsets needed to find long-term sobriety. For more information contact us 24/7 directly at 855-281-5588.