How To Take Heroin: Common Methods Of Administration

How To Take Heroin: Common Methods Of Administration

If you’ve never used drugs, you may not know how to take heroin or other substances. However, you need to understand the drug and how it is used if you want to identify signs of heroin use, abuse, or addiction in someone you love. That way, you can and will be better able to encourage them to get the necessary treatment. 

Heroin can be injected, smoked, snorted, or sniffed. Regardless of how it is used, it is dangerous and highly addictive. However, each method presents specific dangers. In this article, we’ll take a close look at why people use heroin, how they use it, and how they can get help for addiction.

What Kind of Drug is Heroin?

Let’s start by understanding: what is heroin? Heroin is an opioid that’s made from morphine. Like other opioids, it affects the brain and body by attaching to the brain’s opioid receptors. This leads to feelings of intense euphoria.

Heroin is a white, bitter powder in its pure form but it is often mixed with other substances ranging from cornstarch to other drugs. When this happens, the color is more brownish.

Heroin can also be thick, dark, and hard or sticky. This is known as black tar heroin and the color is the result of impurities introduced during the manufacturing process.

What Kind of Drug is Heroin

Why Do People Do Heroin?

Even if you’ve never touched heroin, you probably know that it’s illegal and dangerous. You may, therefore, wonder why people start using it and continue using it.

There are several reasons why people experiment with drugs and then continue to use them even when they experience negative consequences. Let’s look at some of the reasons why people do heroin.

They Want to Fit in with Their Peers

Humans have a biological urge to fit in not just during adolescence but also in adulthood. If a friend uses heroin and seems to be enjoying it while living a covetable lifestyle, some people feel tempted to try it.

They Were Prescribed Prescription Opioids

Even opioids prescribed for pain can be addictive. While many people who are addicted to pain medications abuse prescription pills only, some switch to heroin.

This can happen because their doctor cut them off or they can’t find any more illegal prescription opioids. Some turn to heroin because it’s cheaper.

They Like the Way Heroin Makes Them Feel

People who struggle with depression, anxiety, chronic pain, or grief are more susceptible to using heroin and becoming addicted to it. This is because they experience feelings of wellbeing, happiness, and relaxation thanks to a rush of dopamine in the brain.

The individuals feel that heroin makes their lives more bearable. However, the drug eventually takes over their lives and results in numerous negative consequences.

They Hate How They Feel When They Stop Using

It may surprise you to learn that many people who are addicted to heroin want to stop. They know the drug is bad for them and they’ve seen the damage it can do.

However, when the body gets used to this drug, the individual experiences extremely uncomfortable symptoms when they stop using.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Intense agitation and anxiety
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Muscle twitches
  • An intense ‘pins and needles’ feeling

These symptoms set in about 24 hours after the last use and peak within two to three days. It can take up to ten days for them to go away completely.

Many people fear this experience so much that they continue using this drug. Professional support is key in overcoming a heroin addiction.

Methods of Administration for Heroin

There are some differences between how heroin has been taken historically and the ways it is abused today. The classic method was to inject the drug.

While some people still do this, especially with black tar, the availability of purer forms means that smoking and snorting are more popular. Let’s look at each of the methods.

Injecting Heroin

Heroin can be injected under the skin or into a vein or muscle. When administered under the skin, it is called skin-popping. When injected into a vein, it is called intravenous use or mainlining. 

Since heroin comes in the form of a powder or tar-like substance, it can’t be injected directly into the body. Instead, it must be converted to a liquid form. 

Typically, individuals put it in a spoon, add water, and heat the mixture with a lighter or candle until it is fully liquified. Some add citric acid to help break down the heroin.

The next step is to put a cigarette filter or tightly rolled cotton ball in the spoon so it can absorb the liquid. The liquid is then drawn into a syringe through the filter to get rid of impurities.

After doing this, people tie a shoelace or belt around their upper arm to make their veins more prominent and then inject the drug. Most people start by injecting heroin into their arms but over time, the veins collapse or suffer damage, forcing them to move on to other areas of the body. They may administer the drug behind the knees, in the neck, between the toes, or in the groin.

Using heroin often becomes something of a ritual. Individuals lay out all the items they will use in the order of use. If someone is using it, you may see a number of items on display including the drug, a syringe, a spoon, a lighter, a filter or cotton ball, citric acid, and alcohol swabs.

Someone accustomed to their addiction will likely carry some, or all, of these items with them to better facilitate their usage.  

Injecting Heroin

How Long Does it Take for Heroin to Kick In?

As we noted earlier, snorting and smoking are more common now. However, some people prefer to inject the drug because the effects are stronger and they come on more quickly.  

When you inject heroin into a muscle, the effects peak within five to eight minutes. When you use it intravenously, the effects peak in seconds. When heroin is snorted, it takes about five minutes for the effects to kick in.

Shortly after injecting it, people feel a rush of euphoria along with a warm flush of the skin, and heaviness in the limbs. The mouth gets dry and the individual may experience nausea, vomiting, and itching.

After the initial heroin effects, individuals tend to feel drowsy for several hours. Their heart function, mental function, and breathing all slow down.

This depression of the central nervous system can lead to coma, brain damage, or even death. People who snort or smoke heroin experience many of the same effects, but they may not feel an intense rush.

Dangers of Injecting Heroin

Injecting heroin is dangerous. People who use it in this way can develop skin infections, abscesses, and infections of the heart valves and lining. Regular use can also lead to loss of muscle strength and general body function.

In addition, holes may appear in the skin. Meanwhile, injecting black tar heroin can result in severe damage to tissues of the muscles, skin, and other organs.

Smoking Heroin

Since heroin is either a powder or a thick substance you may be wondering “how do people smoke heroin?”. Individuals usually place the drug on aluminum foil or the top of a soda can and then heat it with a lighter.

They then inhale the resulting smoke and fumes through a hollowed-out pen or a straw. Using this drug in this way is called “‘chasing the dragon”. People who smoke or snort heroin often eventually turn to injecting it.

This is because they develop a tolerance to the drug and they want new ways to achieve their desired effects.

Dangers of Smoking Heroin

Some people think that smoking heroin is less dangerous than injecting the drug but they are still at risk. They can still overdose, become addicted, or suffer a variety of health problems. Their lung function can be compromised and they may experience severe asthma attacks.

Shortness of breath can also occur. Furthermore, smoking can lead to leukoencephalopathy, a debilitating disorder that causes parts of the brain and spinal cord to deteriorate. It can result in paralysis, loss of vision, slurred speech, and even death.

Sniffing or Snorting Heroin

Some people choose to directly inhale heroin powder. Sniffing or snorting is also known as insufflation. The individual puts the powder on a hard surface and draws it into lines using a credit card or razor. They then use a rolled dollar bill, hollowed-out pen, or straw to inhale the powder into their nose.

Dangers of Snorting or Sniffing Heroin

Insufflation can cause serious damage to the nose and nearby areas. People who snort or sniff heroin may experience:

  • Collapsed nasal passages
  • A persistent runny nose
  • Chronic nosebleeds
  • The development of a hole in the septum
  • Bone loss
  • The creation of a hole in the roof or back of the mouth
  • A broad, flattened nose known as saddleback nose

The Dangers of Overdose and Addiction

Regardless of which method an individual uses, heroin remains dangerous and it can lead to

addiction or overdose. People have no way of knowing the strength of the drug they’re using. 

Also, they will need larger and larger doses to achieve the same effects as the body develops tolerance. While most people who overdose are addicted, it’s possible to overdose on your very first use. In short, there’s no easy answer to the question, “how much heroin does it take to overdose?”, since it depends on purity, tolerance, and range of other factors. 

When a person uses a large dose of this drug, it can depress their heart rate and breathing so much that they need medical help or an injection of Narcan or Naloxone to survive. Narcan is a medication used to block the effects of heroin by quickly binding to the opioid receptors.

Symptoms of a heroin overdose include:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Weak pulse
  • Low blood pressure
  • Bluish nails and lips
  • Delirium
  • Disorientation
  • Lack of responsiveness 

Seek medical attention right away if someone is experiencing these symptoms.

Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction claims thousands of lives in the United States every year. However, it doesn’t have to lead to death since recovery is possible with the right professional help. Overcoming this addiction can be challenging because the drug rewires the brain into thinking that it needs it to function. 

A common question is “how long does it take to get addicted to heroin?”. This varies from person to person. After the first use, some people want to experience the same euphoria again so they seek out more heroin. Repeated use can quickly lead to dependence and addiction. The individual becomes so focused on using this drug that they will go to any lengths to do so.

Signs of heroin addiction include:

  • Impaired concentration or focus
  • Significant weight loss
  • Persistent flu-like symptoms
  • Lethargy and exhaustion
  • Drastic mood swings
  • Bruising or scabbing of the skin
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Financial difficulties
  • Legal difficulties 
  • A new peer group of users and dealers

What to Do If A Loved One is Abusing Heroin?

If someone you know is showing signs of heroin addiction, you should encourage them to seek professional help. It is very difficult to quit this drug on your own and going through the detox process can be dangerous without medical supervision. After rehab, people who are addicted to heroin benefit most from inpatient treatment and ongoing counseling.

Contact The Discovery House to Learn More About Detox and Rehab

Contact The Discovery House to Learn More About Detox and Rehab

Regardless of which method an individual uses to take this drug, they’re at risk for addiction. At The Discovery House, we offer comprehensive drug treatment programs that help people to achieve and maintain sobriety. Not only do we treat all addictions but we treat co-occurring mental health problems including depression, anxiety, personality disorders, bipolar disorder, and grief/loss.

We offer personalized treatment to everyone who comes through our doors. Our continuum of care includes drug and alcohol detox, residential treatment, counseling, and therapy and discharge planning.

Our luxury addiction center is located in Southern California but we accept individuals from across the country. We accept most PPO insurance policies including:

  • Aetna Health Insurance
  • Assurant Health
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield
  • Cigna Health Insurance
  • Healthnet
  • Humana
  • United Healthcare
  • UPMC
  • ValueOptions Behavioral Health Care

If you need more information on paying for rehab or entering heroin addiction treatment, contact us today to talk to one of our team members.