Last updated: 04/1/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Heroin abuse affects nearly all parts of the body and can cause extreme detriment to its structure, health, and abilities over time. Heroin is “a highly addictive… heavily abused and extremely potent opiate” which means that its effects are very strong. With both acute and chronic use, heroin harms your body in many ways.
Heroin and the Brain
Repeated heroin use changes the physical structure and physiology of the brain, creating long-term imbalances in neuronal and hormonal systems that are not easily reversed.” When someone abuses heroin, it causes many harmful effects to the brain, including:
- Over time, heroin addiction can form and cause the individual to think of nothing but their next fix. It can erode all other thoughts and facets of the person’s life until the addiction becomes the strongest thing there is for them.
- This occurs quickly and more strongly with heroin than most other drugs, where the individual needs more and more of the drug to feel the effects each time.
- Dependence on the drug starts with the individual not feeling normal without it. This can lead to physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms if the drug use is stopped.
- The suppression of breathing caused by heroin use can “affect the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain… [having] short- and long-term psychological and neurological effects, including coma and permanent brain damage.”
Methods of Heroin Abuse and the Body
The use of heroin has many terrible effects on the body. Because heroin is normally injected, users often develop collapsed veins as a result which can be dangerous. Injection of the drug also leads to users putting themselves at a high “risk for contracting HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and other blood-borne pathogens” (CESAR).
Some individuals snort or smoke heroin because they believe it is safer and less addictive, but this is not true. A person can still become quickly addicted to heroin by one of these abuse methods, and respiratory problems and other issues can also occur in the body. When heroin is abused with other drugs (such as cocaine), its effects are even more dangerous and, often, more deadly.
Heroin Abuse and the Body
Over time, heroin can cause so many issues and problems with the body, sometimes causing it to break down altogether. Severe respiratory depression and death are common effects of heroin use, as well as:
- Abscesses (infections filled with pus)
- Infection of the heart lining and valves
- Liver disease
- Clogging of the blood vessels as a result of street heroin containing additives
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Kidney disease
- (In pregnant women) Spontaneous abortion
- Weight loss and malnutrition
- (Women) Loss of menstruation
There is almost no system in the human body that is not affected by the abuse of heroin. When a person takes heroin for the first time, it already begins to work on the brain and body and can cause overdose and death after the very first time one abuses it. Heroin is dangerous and does extremely harmful things to the body of the abuser.