Heroin is illegal to purchase or consume for any person in the United States of any age. Heroin, along with hydrocodone, codeine and morphine, is classified as an opioid — meaning that it is derived in some way from the opium plant.

How does this affect me?

Past year use of heroin, typically very low among teens, is at an all-time low at 0.3 percent for eighth graders, and 0.5 for 10th and 12th graders.


When heroin enters the body, it is broken down into morphine, an extremely addictive depressant. Heroin increases levels of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, which can cause slowed reactions and movements. It also increases dopamine release in the brain, causing a “feel-good” effect.

Short-Term Effects

  • Slowed breathing and heart rate
  • Sensory delays
  • Impaired thinking or judgment
  • Numbness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth

Long-Term Effects

  • Impaired night vision
  • Constipation
  • Joint and muscle problems
  • Emotional instability
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Cognitive impairment

Other Effects

  • Increased risk of HIV and Hepatitis B infection
  • Increased risk of tetanus
  • Collapsed veins
  • Thrombosis


What is methadone?

Methadone is a form of treatment for some people with opioid dependence. It is used in replacement therapy and is intended to help users wean themselves off of heroin and other opioids. While methadone might still cause some of the same effects that heroin does, these effects are to a less intense, and users are often much more functional than they are on heroin.

What does it mean to “overdose” on heroin?

An overdose (or OD) can occur when a user takes a drug in a greater amount than is normal for that user. For heroin users who have overdosed, this can cause a lack of oxygen circulation in the brain, nausea and vomiting, sedation, hypothermia, coma, or even death. It is much easier for heroin users who inject the drug to overdose because the amount of the drug that is “pleasurable” is very close to the amount of the drug that can cause an overdose.

How to Get Help

If you or someone you know has a drug problem, talk to a trusted adult. Seek out local substance abuse treatment centers in your area for further help. A physician or a counselor should be able to assist you in finding treatment centers.

  • Also, seek out local self-help groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA). To find out more information about NA’s services, visit https://www.na.org/.
  • Call Centerstone at 1-888-291-4357 (HELP) to schedule an appointment with a therapist.
  • If you feel like you need immediate help, please call 1-800-681-7444 for 24-hour Crisis Services.