Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Heroin

Heroin
beginning of content

Heroin

Heroin is an addictive drug with a lot of serious side effects. Accidental overdoses are common and can be fatal.

If you use heroin often you can become addicted and risk developing a range of physical, psychological, legal, financial and social problems.

Find out how drug use can impact your life.

What is heroin?

Heroin is made from the opium poppy. It belongs to the family of drugs called opioids along with prescription medicines such as morphine, codeine, pethidine and methadone.

Heroin comes as a fine white powder, off-white granules or tiny brown ‘rocks’.

It is usually injected into a vein, but it can be smoked or snorted as well. It is also known as horse, hammer, H, dope, smack, junk, and gear.

Effects of heroin use

Heroin is a depressant drug which means it slows down the messages to and from your brain. One of these messages is to breathe – heroin can stop you breathing.

Heroin produces an immediate ‘rush’, which makes people who use it feel good, as well as drowsy and very relaxed. It also dulls physical and psychological pain.

People who take heroin have slurred speech, slow breathing and reduced coordination. If they take a high dose, they can have an irregular heartbeat, very slow breathing, blue lips, and cold and clammy skin.

People who use heroin regularly are more likely to get skin, heart and lung infections, loss of sex drive in men, menstrual and fertility problems for women, and risk infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C from sharing needles.

In time, users become tolerant to heroin and need larger and larger doses to get the same rush. Eventually, no dose is enough for them.

Heroin addiction

Heroin is very addictive and kicking the habit can be tough. Getting off heroin takes a long time, and might include using medicines such as methadone (a prescription opioid drug) along with counselling and support groups. Withdrawal symptoms from heroin start 6 to 24 hours after the last dose and last about a week. They include cravings for heroin, restlessness, depression, yawning, cramps, vomiting and goosebumps.

Heroin overdose

Accidental overdoses are common because users don’t know how ‘pure’ their supply is. Batches often contain other substances making them very poisonous. Overdoses also happen when too much heroin is injected into a vein, or if it’s used with alcohol and other drugs. An overdose can lead to coma and death. Heroin’s effects can be reversed with a drug called naloxone.

Find out about heroin's effect on mental health.

Last reviewed: March 2017

Recommended links

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 62 results

Heroin - ADF - Alcohol & Drug Foundation

Heroin is a depressant drug, which means it slows down the messages travelling between your brain and body. Heroin is an opiate: from the opium poppy.

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

Factsheets on speed, ice, heroin, LSD, ecstacy, cocaine, cannabis, alcohol, benzodiazepines | Your Room

Privacy|Terms & Conditions|Disclaimer|Sitemap|Contact Us|Website by Holy Cow!Follow ADIS on TwitterA joint initiative by NSW Health and St Vincent's Alcohol and Drug Information Service

Read more on NSW Health website

How can Heroin, Smack or Hammer affect your body? | Rooms | Your Room

Privacy|Terms & Conditions|Disclaimer|Sitemap|Contact Us|Website by Holy Cow!Follow ADIS on TwitterA joint initiative by NSW Health and St Vincent's Alcohol and Drug Information Service

Read more on NSW Health website

Naltrexone GH Tablets - myDr.com.au

Naltrexone GH Tablets - Consumer Medicines Information leaflets of prescription and over-the-counter medicines

Read more on myDr – Consumer Medicine Information website

Understanding opiates for young people

Read more on headspace website

ReVia Tablet - myDr.com.au

ReVia Tablet - Consumer Medicines Information leaflets of prescription and over-the-counter medicines

Read more on myDr – Consumer Medicine Information website

Naloxone Hydrochloride Injection - myDr.com.au

Naloxone Hydrochloride Injection - Consumer Medicines Information leaflets of prescription and over-the-counter medicines

Read more on myDr – Consumer Medicine Information website

Codeine - ADF - Alcohol & Drug Foundation

Codeine is a prescription drug, and is part of a group of drugs known as opioids. Opioids are depressant drugs... Click Here For More Information

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

How Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Affect Sperm | myVMC

How tobacco, alcohol and drugs affect sperm: Smoking, recreational drug use and some medical drugs can all cause male infertility.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Drugs and young people - myDr.com.au

Recognising that your teenage child is using drugs, and dealing with the situation, can be difficult for parents.

Read more on myDr website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback