Heroin Facts and Evidence

Facts and Information

1. Heroin is a highly addictive opioid drug, and its use has repercussions that extend far beyond the individual user. The medical and social consequences of drug use—such as hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, fetal effects, crime, violence, and disruptions in family, workplace, and educational environments—have a devastating impact on society and cost billions of dollars each year.

2. Heroin suppresses breathing, which is why using heroin always carries the risk of overdose and death. Also, heroin often has additives that will not dissolve in the bloodstream. This can easily cause a blood clot to form and travel to the lungs, liver, heart or brain, which is instantly fatal.

3. In a short amount of time, regular heroin use destroys the body. Common conditions that plague heroin users include infection of the heart lining and valves, liver disease, lung disease, and hepatitis and HIV/AIDS from needle use.


1. This excerpt is important because it explains what kind of drug heroin is and shows medical and social consequences of the drug use.

2. This excerpt is also important because it shows why using heroin always carries the risk of overdose and death.

3. Finally, this paragraph is important because it tells us common conditions that plague heroin users.

How does this drug affect the brain and body

1. When heroin enters the brain, it attaches to molecules on cells known as opioid receptors. These receptors are located in many areas of the brain and body, especially areas involved in the perception of pain and pleasure, as well as a part of the brain that regulates breathing.

2. Short-term effects of heroin include a rush of good feelings and clouded thinking. These effects can last for a few hours, and during this time people feel drowsy, and their heart rate and breathing slow down. When the drug wears off, people experience a depressed mood and often crave the drug to regain the good feelings.

3. Regular heroin use changes the functioning of the brain. Using heroin repeatedly can result in:

tolerance: more of the drug is needed to achieve the same “high”

dependence: the need to continue use of the drug to avoid withdrawal symptoms

addiction: a devastating brain disease where, without proper treatment, people have trouble stopping using drugs even when they really want to and even after it causes terrible consequences to their health and other parts of their lives. Because of changes to how the brain functions after repeated drug use, people that are addicted crave the drug just to feel “normal.”

Significance of this information

1. Deaths from drug overdoses have been increasing since the early 1990s, fueled by increases in misuse of prescription opioids and, more recently, by a surge in heroin use. In 2015, close to 13,000 people in the United States died from a heroin overdose—more than seven times as many as in 2001 nearly 1,800.

2. Heroin bought on the street often contains a mix of substances that are lethal and dangerous. Some of these substances can be toxic and can clog the blood vessels leading to the lungs, liver, kidney, or brain. This can cause permanent damage to those organs.

3. Heroin use can put you into a coma, dangerously slow (or even stopped) breathing that can lead to overdose death, and can increase risk of HIV and hepatitis (a liver disease) through shared needles.





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