What is heroin?
Heroin is part of a group of drugs known as opioids. Opioids interact with opioid receptors in the brain and elicit a range of responses within the body; from feelings of pain relief, to relaxation, pleasure and contentment.
Heroin comes in different forms, including:
- fine white powder
- coarse off-white granules
- tiny pieces of light brown ‘rock’.1
It is normally sold in ‘caps’ (a small amount, usually enough for one injection) or grams. It is usually packaged in ‘foils’ (aluminium foil packaging) or small, coloured balloons.
Smack, gear, hammer, the dragon, H, dope, junk, harry, horse, black tar, white dynamite, homebake, china white, Chinese H, poison, Dr Harry.1
Other types of opioids
How is it used?
Heroin is usually injected into a vein, but it’s also smoked (‘chasing the dragon’), and added to cigarettes and cannabis. The effects are usually felt within seconds of injecting or smoking it, but will take around 10 to 15 minutes if snorted.
Effects of heroin
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
Heroin affects everyone differently, based on:
- the person’s size, weight and health
- whether the person is used to taking it
- whether other drugs are taken around the same time
- the amount taken
- the strength of the drug (it varies from batch to batch).
The main effects of heroin, which usually last for three to five hours, include:
- intense pleasure and pain relief
- relaxation, drowsiness and clumsiness
- feelings of detachment
- slurred and slow speech
- slow breathing and heartbeat
- dry mouth
- tiny pupils
- reduced appetite and vomiting
- decreased sex drive.1-3
When injecting drugs, there is an increased risk of:
- vein damage.
If sharing needles, there is an increased risk of:
- hepatitis B
- hepatitis C
- HIV and AIDS.
If you take a large amount or have a strong batch of heroin, you could overdose.
Call an ambulance straight away by dialling triple zero (000) if you or someone else has any of the symptoms listed below (ambulance officers don’t need to involve the police):
- trouble concentrating
- extreme drowsiness or falling asleep (‘going on the nod’)
- small (‘pinned’) pupils
- wanting to urinate but finding it hard to
- low blood pressure
- irregular heartbeat
- cold, clammy skin
- slow breathing, blue lips and fingertips
- passing out
Naloxone (also known as Narcan®) reverses the effects of heroin and other opioids, particularly in the case of an overdose. Naloxone can be injected intramuscularly (into a muscle) or delivered by intranasal spray. black tar heroin USA