Heroin is a drug made from the opium poppy. It is addictive, and addicts can find it very hard to kick the habit.
Heroin is usually injected into a vein, but it can also be smoked or snorted. It’s also known as horse, smack, hammer, H, dope and junk.
Effects of heroin use
Heroin is a depressant drugs, which means it slows down the messages to and from your brain. It can make you feel content, drowsy and relaxed. It also dulls physical and psychological pain. It can also make you stop breathing. Learn more about the physical effects of heroin.
People who use heroin regularly are more likely to develop mental health problems such as:
- psychological dependence, where their thoughts and emotions revolve around the drug
- mood swings, depression and anxiety
People who use heroin regularly might also:
- neglect their health
- have financial problems because they spend a lot of money buying drugs
- have relationship problems
- find it hard to do their work properly
- have an overdose, either accidentally or deliberately
- pick up infections such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV
- suffer physical illnesses
- run into legal problems
Kicking the habit
Kicking a heroin habit can be tough. Withdrawal symptoms start between 6 and 24 hours after the last dose and are worst after 2 to 4 days. They usually last for about a week and include cravings, depression, diarrhoea, increased heart rate, vomiting and loss of appetite.
Some mental health symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and continued cravings, can last for years after the last dose.
There are many different ways to treat heroin addiction. Counselling and support groups are common approaches. Some people recommend methadone, which is a prescription drug used as a replacement for heroin. Find out about methadone on the Alcohol and Drug Foundation website.
Find help on the Alcohol and Drug Foundation website.
You can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14, DrugInfo on 1300 85 85 84 or the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015 if you need to talk to someone about drugs.
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Last reviewed: July 2019