Smoking heroin is a method of administration that some people use in an attempt to avoid the stigma associated with injection and the scarring that often occurs. However, others engage in this practice because they erroneously believe it is safer and less addictive.
Heroin abuse, however, is dangerous regardless of how the drug is abused. All means of using heroin can result in dependence and addiction.
Heroin can be inhaled through a glass pipe or heated on foil so that the fumes can be ingested, an administration method referred to as “chasing the dragon.” Some people lace cigarettes or marijuana joints with heroin as well.
The dangers of smoking heroin can be severe and can include lung problems, dependence and tolerance, addiction, painful withdrawal symptoms, and lethal overdose.
Smoking Heroin Effects and Symptoms
When heroin is smoked, effects are experienced more slowly compared to injecting the drug.
Other short term effects of smoking heroin include the following:
- Profound mental fog
- Dry mouth
- Nodding off
- Heaviness in the extremities
- Warm or flushed skin
The long-term effects of smoking heroin tend to be more severe, including constipation, brain damage, insomnia, and mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Chronic heroin smoking may also produce hormonal imbalances that lead to sexual dysfunction for men and irregular menstrual cycles for women.
Lung Problems From Smoking Heroin
Smoking heroin can take a tremendous toll on a person’s lungs. As an opioid, heroin can obstruct air from making its way into the lungs and induce respiratory depression. This condition impairs respiration and can lead to life-threatening breathing problems.
When combined with the poor health that often occurs with heroin use, depressed respiration can cause lung conditions, such as certain types of pneumonia and tuberculosis. Smoking heroin can also result in other health and medical issues such as the following:
Although relatively small amounts of heroin usually suppress coughing, smoking frequently may cause a chronic cough. In addition, if heroin is laced into cigarettes, the nicotine and tar from the tobacco may exacerbate coughing.
People who have asthma and smoke heroin may experience an exacerbation of their asthmatic symptoms. In addition, various studies have also suggested that heroin abuse may lead to the onset of asthma among some users.
According to research, persons who had asthma and smoked heroin were more likely to be hospitalized in intensive care and require intubation and ventilation. An asthma attack related to heroin use may become so severe that a person loses their life.
Individuals who abuse heroin often do not take care of themselves or use their medication as directed. This could worsen a person’s symptoms and increase the risk for other severe complications.
Research has revealed that smoking heroin can cause the early development of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). This progressive lung disease can heighten a person’s risk for heart disease and lung cancer. Significantly, the study also found higher rates of early-onset emphysema related to smoking heroin.
Regardless of how it is administered, heroin is a remarkably potent drug that can lead to overdose and result in coma or death, particularly if it’s laced with other powerful substances, such as fentanyl.
Signs and symptoms of a heroin overdose include the following:
- Bluish nails and lips
- Extreme drowsiness
- Low blood pressure
- Slow or stopped breathing
- Weak or absent pulse
Other Risks of Smoking Heroin
Some people may ingest heroin accidentally if it is laced into cigarettes or marijuana by another individual. However, without tolerance for heroin, a person could become extremely ill or overdose from being exposed to this drug.
The dangers of smoking heroin also include toxic leukoencephalopathy, a severe condition that can cause extensive harm to the brain’s white matter. This can result in inattention and forgetfulness, with effects including dementia, personality changes, speech disorder, coma, and death.
Treating Addiction From Heroin
Heroin addiction is a very dangerous and life-threatening condition. For this reason, a detox program is usually needed initially when a person seeks recovery. However, severe addiction may be most effectively treated in an inpatient drug rehab program as well.
Just Believe Recovery offers specialized addiction treatment programs that include detox and residual and intensive outpatient formats. Our goal is to ensure each individual we treat receives the care, support, education, and tools they need to get clean and forge a more fulfilling and healthy life.