Repeated heroin use can cause lung complications caused in part by the drug's effect of depressing respiration, as well as the general poor health of the user. These complications can include tuberculosis and various types of pneumonia.
Other medical complications experienced by chronic heroin users include:
- Sexual dysfunction in men
- Irregular menstrual cycles for women
Injection heroin users often have bacterial infections of the blood vessels and heart valves. They can also experience scarred or collapsed veins, abscesses and other soft-tissue infections.
Effects of AdditivesBecause some of the additives that street heroin is mixed with can include substances that do not dissolve well, they can clog the blood vessels leading to the lungs, liver, kidneys and brain. When this happens small sections of cells in these vital organs and become infected or even die.
Also, the body's immune reaction to these or other contaminants can cause arthritis or other rheumatologic problems.
Sharing Injection EquipmentAdditionally, if heroin injection users share their injection equipment with others it can produce even more severe health consequences. They can contract hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV and many other blood-borne viruses which can be passed along to others.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the following are the short- and long-term health effects of heroin use:
- Depressed respiration
- Clouded mental functioning
- Nausea and vomiting
- Suppression of pain
- Spontaneous abortion
- Infectious disease
- Collapsed veins
- Bacterial infections
- Infection of heart lining and valves
- Arthritis and other rheumatologic problems
- Liver and kidney disease
National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Heroin." Research Report Series Updated January 2014
The Partnership at DrugFree.org. "Heroin." Drug Guide. Accessed March 2014.