Heroin is a depressant drug, which means it slows down the messages travelling between your brain and body. Heroin belongs to a group of drugs known as 'opioids' that are from the opium poppy.1
Heroin comes in different forms, including:
Smack, gear, hammer, the dragon, H, dope, junk, harry, horse, black tar, white dynamite, homebake, china white, Chinese H, poison, Dr Harry1
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 straightaway. Sometimes heroin is snorted – the effects take around 10 to 15 minutes to feel if it's used in this way.2
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 following effects may be experienced and last for 3 to 5 hours:
Injecting heroin and sharing needles may also cause:
Naloxone (also known as Narcan®) reverses the effects of heroin, particularly in the case of an overdose. It can be administered by family and friends of people who use opiates. Speak to your chemist or pharmacist for more information.
In the days after heroin use, the following may be experienced:
Regular use of heroin may eventually cause:
Using heroin with other drugs
The effects of taking heroin with other drugs – including over-the-counter or prescribed medications – can be unpredictable and dangerous, and could cause:
Giving up heroin after using it for a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without it. Withdrawal symptoms usually start within 6 to 24 hours after the last dose and can last for about a week – days 1 to 3 will be the worst. These symptoms can include:
Reducing the risks
1. Campbell, A. (2000). The Australian illicit drug guide. Melbourne: Black Inc.
2. Brands, B., Sproule, B., & Marshman, J. (Eds.). (1998). Drugs & drug abuse (3rd ed.). Ontario: Addiction Research Foundation.
3. Goldsmith, R., Weisz, M. & Shapiro, H. (2010). The Essential Guide to Drugs and Alcohol. (14th ed.). London: DrugScope.
Last updated: 12 May 2016