Heroin is an opioid drug that is synthesised from morphine which is a naturally occurring substance that is extracted from the resin of poppy plants. 


Heroin is usually injected, snorted or smoked and is highly addictive. All three routes of administration deliver the drug to the brain rapidly, contributing to its high risk of addiction. 

When morphine is made into heroin to be used as a medicine, it’s called diamorphine, and is sometimes prescribed for severe or chronic pain.

There are numerous risks associated with heroin abuse. Repeated heroin use can change the physical structure and physiology of the brain, creating long-term imbalances in neuronal and hormonal systems. 

Heroin is one of the three drugs most frequently involved in drug abuse deaths. Violence and crime are linked to its use.

How heroin makes you feel

  • A small dose of heroin gives the user a feeling of warmth and well-being, whilst bigger doses can make you sleepy and very relaxed
  • It can make people think and react slowly, impairing their decision-making ability and can also cause difficulty in remembering things
  • The first dose of heroin can bring about dizziness and vomiting
  • The effects of heroin can last for a number of hours so it is important to be careful using any other drugs or alcohol in that time

The law

  • Heroin is a class A drug, so it’s illegal to have for yourself, give away or sell
  • Possession is illegal and can get you up to seven years in jail and/or an unlimited fine
  • Supplying someone else, even your friends, can get you up to life imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine

Short-term effects

  • Abusers experience clouded mental functioning, nausea and vomiting
  • Awareness of pain may be suppressed 
  • Pregnant women can suffer spontaneous abortion
  • Cardiac (heart) functions slow down and breathing is severely slowed, sometimes to the point of death

Long-term effects

  • Scarred and/or collapsed veins
  • Bacterial infections of the blood vessels, heart valves, abscesses and other soft-tissue infections
  • Liver or kidney disease 
  • Lung complications may result 
  • Injecting heroin and sharing injecting equipment can be very risky. Sharing of needles or fluids may result in Hepatitis, HIV and other blood-borne viruses
  • Veins may become damaged from prolonged use and abscesses or blood clot may develop