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5 minutes

What Does Heroin Feel Like? The Dangers of Using Heroin

Medically Reviewed
Last Medically Reviewed on: 20220626
Stressed man in a black hoodie

Written by

Kevin Lang

Medically Reviewed by

Updated on

23 Jun, 2022

It is one of the most well-known drugs, but also one that people know very little about other than how dangerous it can be to those addicted. Heroin is the processed product of the naturally occurring substance morphine, which comes from the sap of the opium poppy. Opium poppies are usually limited to a few geographic areas, such as Mexico, Columbia, and all across southern Asia.

In appearance, heroin is as diverse as those who become addicted to it. Heroin can range from a pure white powder, similar in appearance to cocaine, to a yellow or even brown powder. It can also be found as a black sticky version known as “black tar” due to its appearance and texture. It is often sticky and gummy, like roofing or road tar.

Heroin can be taken by smoking it, though this is rare and often only seen in certain areas of the world. It can also be taken by insufflation, or snorting, the second most common route of administration. Users often snort heroin because they think it is safer than intravenous use or to avoid injection-related diseases like hepatitis and HIV.

It also has a slower rate of taking effect when snorted due to needing to be absorbed and passed through the blood-brain barrier. While the health risks are somewhat lowered concerning infectious diseases, it does not affect the incredibly dangerous and addictive tendencies of heroin.

The most popular and dangerous method of administering heroin is by intravenous use, or injection. There is a significant risk of overdose when injecting heroin, and numerous health risks are associated with IV drug use. These risks include transmitting diseases like HIV through used or “dirty” needles. Since clean needles can often be difficult for addicts to obtain, this is more of a risk than many people realize.

What Does Heroin Feel Like?

Those who have never tried heroin may wonder what it feels like and what the draw is for users to try it. Likewise, suppose you have ever had someone close to you become addicted to heroin. In that case, you may wonder why they continue to use it, even after it has essentially taken their entire life and livelihood away.

For many people, this curiosity about what the high is like can lead them to “just try it once” to find out what it feels like. Unfortunately, this use is often enough to make a new addict, reinforcing the new addiction with powerful withdrawal symptoms. Others can become addicted through the use, either prescribed or illicit, of prescription opiates. When the prescription ends, they often try to find a surrogate to prevent the sickness accompanying withdrawal.

The first use often brings what the addict finds an unmatchable high, with deep euphoria and a false sense of well-being. It is a powerful pain reliever, as well as depression and anxiety, so if the user suffers from any of those, they will find that relief added to their high and euphoria. For sufferers of chronic pain, this can be the factor that immediately hooks them. The sense of well-being provides a sense of escapism for some users, which can also be the feeling they chase.

What The Dangerous Cycle of Heroin and What It Feels Like Does to The Body

Many dangers can come from the constant and long-term use of heroin. While many affect the user’s personal life, employment, and ability to pay their bills and other financial obligations, several harmful physical effects will also manifest for chronic users. These can include:


Tracks are the marks from repeated injections at a preferred site. Heroin users will often have a preferred arm or other location that will be used for most injections. They can be dark spots, resemble bruises, and have black and blue tones. They can remain even after years of sobriety

Skin Disorders

Since drug purity is impossible to guarantee, users often suffer from the side effects of injecting the adulterants and the heroin. Ulcers, pus blisters, infections, and deep abscesses are common in chronic users. Cellulitis, or inflammation of subcutaneous tissue, is another disorder that is present in a large number of addicts.

Vein Injury

Damage from repeated injections can cause collapsing veins, as well as deadly clots. The damage can be permanent without treatment.

Puffy Hand Syndrome

Many long-term users of injected drugs like heroin will develop swelling in one hand. Frequently, the result of skin infections can range in its severity. Without treatment, it can also be permanent.

Blood Disorders

Addicts will often not be able to wait to use until they get a clean needle since withdrawal symptoms can be so severe. This can lead to contracting diseases like HIV or hepatitis, which can both cause deadly complications if left untreated.

Necrotizing Fasciitis

This is a rare infection from a deadly bacteria located in the soft tissue. It often resembles cellulitis but brings many more severe symptoms like fever, dizziness, and nausea. This can require surgery to treat in some advanced cases.

What to Do If You Are Addicted to Heroin

If you or someone close to you is having a problem with heroin, there are ways to leverage resources that dramatically increase the chances of success. One thing that is incredibly important to do is reach out to friends and family. A support network is essential to success, as is accountability.

Another thing that can mean the difference between success and relapse is getting professional help. By working with a qualified treatment center, users can get the professional attention they need through intensive inpatient treatment plans. In addition, they can help you develop the tools you need to succeed.

To ensure a successful recovery from heroin, it is essential that professional help is recruited, as heroin is one of the most dangerous and even fatal drugs on the market today. Inpatient rehabs are particularly beneficial in setting an individual up for long-term sobriety and the detox phase when cravings are intense. Furthermore, inpatient rehab has medical staff on-site so that any health issues will be cared for immediately.

If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to heroin, the time to get help is now. Waiting any longer can result in dangerous, even fatal, consequences. Contact us to discuss your options immediately to get on the path to a better, more fulfilling future.


Infinite Recovery has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for our references. We avoid using tertiary references as our sources. You can learn more about how we source our references by reading our editorial guidelines and medical review policy.

  1. Peri C. Heroin. WebMD. Published March 17, 2022. Accessed June 26, 2022.
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