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What Are the Short-Term Effects of Heroin Use?

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Updated June 23, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Short term effects of Heroin
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Question: What Are the Short-Term Effects of Heroin Use?
Answer: As soon as heroin enters the brain, the user experiences a surge of pleasurable sensation known as a "rush." When heroin enters the brain, crosses the blood-brain barrier, it is converted to morphine and quickly binds to opioid receptors, producing that euphoric feeling.

How quickly the heroin enters the brain determines the intensity of the "rush." When heroin is injected it causes a much quicker reaction than if it is smoked. If it is smoked, the reaction is quicker than if it is snorted.

But, any way it is administered it enters the brain very rapidly and this is one reason heroin is so addictive.

Other Short-Term Effects

Other than the euphoric rush, users usually experience dry mouth, a warm flushing of the skin, and their extremities begin to feel heavy. Sometimes users can experience nausea, vomiting and severe itching.

After the initial, short-term effects of the drug, users can feel drowsy for several hours, due to heroin's effect on the central nervous system. During this period cardiac function and breathing can slow down.

In the case of heroin overdose, breathing can slow to the point of being life-threatening.

Back to: Heroin FAQ

Sources:

National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Heroin." Research Report Series Updated January 2014

The Partnership at DrugFree.org. "Heroin." Drug Guide. Accessed March 2014.

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