Heroin’s Dangerous Effects: What Heroin Does to the Body

September 24, 2018 10:00 am Published by

Most people know how dangerous and deadly heroin can be just from recent news reports about the opioid epidemic. It’s no secret heroin can lead to overdoses and death. But what many people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about is how heroin actually affects your body.

How Does Heroin Work?

When heroin enters the brain, it is converted to morphine and binds rapidly to opioid receptors. People who use heroin report feeling a surge of pleasure or a rush. This sense of pleasure is due to a flood of dopamine being released into the body.

After this release is over, your brain wants to replicate that feeling, which leads to wanting more and more heroin to get the same fix. Over time, your body creates a tolerance and you no longer feel that same high, so you take larger doses. This leads to a worsening addiction, more health problems and an even higher risk of overdose.

Changes to the Brain

Heroin changes the structure and physiology of your brain. It can cause a decline in white matter, which leads to problems with:

– Cognitive function
– Memory loss
– Decision-making issues

Changes to the Body

Not only does heroin cause problems with the brain, it also takes its toll on the body in many ways. It can cause short-term problems immediately after taking the drug and long-term issues after it is used many times. It even affects physical appearance.

Short-Term Problems

– Flushing of the skin
– Feeling as though your arms and legs are heavy
– Increases in body temperature
– Nausea and vomiting
– Extreme itching
– Dry mouth
– Falling in and out of consciousness
– Slowed heart rate
– Irregular heart rate
– Slowed breathing

Long-Term Problems

As heroin is used more and more, your body takes a beating from the abuse, leading to worsening health problems. Some of these problems include:

– Oral health deterioration
– Skin problems
– Extreme constipation
– Weakened immune system
– Malnutrition
– Sleep problems
– Sexual function problems
– Liver and kidney damage
– Brain damage caused by overdoses
– Lung problems like tuberculosis and pneumonia
– Possible infections of heart valves
– Coma
– Death

Appearance Changes

While heroin affects the body is many ways that cannot be seen, it even leads to significant, negative changes in your appearance:

– Weight loss (especially in the face)
– Sagging skin
– Dark circles around the eyes
– Looking lethargic
– Scabs and scars (specifically on the face due to itchiness)
– Bluish tint to skin (due to low heart rate)
– Looking much older than actual age

The Effects of Withdrawal

After becoming dependent on a drug like heroin, you have to keep taking it in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms will affect how your body feels and can begin as soon as 10 hours after using heroin. Heroin withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure

Heal Your Body at Footprints Beachside Recovery

If you are using heroin, your body is likely suffering and desperately wants to heal. It’s time for a healthy, fresh start that is possible through addiction treatment. Our heroin treatment at Footprints Beachside Recovery includes a personalized therapy plan to fit your specific needs.

This individual approach uses group therapy, trauma therapy (if necessary), dual diagnosis groups, nutrition classes, massage, fitness classes and more. Medically-supervised detox can also be part of your individualized treatment. Contact us today to start recovering from heroin addiction.


Opioid and opiate withdrawal symptoms and treatments. www.healthline.com. (Accessed Sept. 14, 2018).

Call Footprints Beachside Recovery at 877-954-3908 today.