Substance Use

Ways to Use Heroin: Snorting, Smoking, Injecting

Two hypodermic needles with drugs on a blue background symbolize heroin abuse. Heroin addicts inject heroin to get a quicker high.

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What Are the Ways People Look to Do Heroin?

Although injecting heroin is a common way to use the drug, most people do not inject it at first use. People usually snort or smoke heroin before they try injecting it.

Heroin comes in several forms, like Black Tar Heroin, and people who have a heroin use disorder may use it in different ways in order to get the high and feelings they are looking for.

In this article we will share with you what are the other common ways heroin might abused by someone with a heroin addiction other than by injecting heroin to get high.

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How Do People Use Heroin?

The three different ways people commonly look to use heroin are:

  1. Injecting heroin
  2. Snorting heroin
  3. Smoking heroin

There are many ways to use heroin, and each method has its side effects and complications.

Heroin abuse can lead to permanent health problems and even death, regardless of how the drug is taken.

1. Injecting Heroin

In this research study it was reported that more than 50% of heroin users reported that they injected it versus using via snorting, smoking or ingesting it.

Heroin injection will give a person a quick, intense high, increasing the risk of a fatal overdose.

Injecting heroin is a sign that someone’s heroin addiction is incredibly severe.

Can You Inject Heroin?

Yes, you can inject heroin with injecting heroin being the most common method for taking the drug.

How is Heroin Injected?

Users will heat the drug first with a lighter on a metal surface such as a spoon in order to create a liquid form of heroin that they can inject.

They will then use a hypodermic needle to draw the liquid heroin off the spoon into a syringe that they can then use to inject the drug into their veins or muscle.

Injecting heroin allows the drug to enter the bloodstream quickly, resulting in a euphoric rush.

What Are the Dangers of Injecting Heroin?

There are many risks that can come from injecting heroin which include:

  • Risk of Contracting Bloodborne Infectious Diseases: Users are at risk of contracting diseases like hepatitis and HIV.
  • Risk of Systemic Infection: Users are at risk of developing a systemic infection that can lead to serious complications.
  • Risk of Abscesses: Users are at risk of developing painful, pus-filled areas of the skin caused by a bacterial infection at the site of shooting up.
  • Risk of Organ Damage: Users are at risk of developing damage to organs such as the heart, brain, kidneys, liver and lungs due to impurities in the heroin and bacterial infections.
  • Risk of Vein Collapse: Users are at risk of developing collapsed veins and scarring from regular injecting of heroin which can also lead to intense and painful swelling in their veins.
  • Risk of Breathing Difficulties: Users are at risk of developing breathing problems including wheezing, fluid in the lungs, pneumonia and general difficulty breathing.
  • Risk of Tetanus: Users are at risk of developing tetanus from dirty needles used during injecting heroin.

2. Snorting Heroin

Heroin users will sometimes snort heroin in much the same way a person would use cocaine — this is especially true of people with a previous history of using cocaine.

Snorting heroin is also known by users as “chasing the dragon”.

People who are not severely addicted to the drug may also snort it because they aren’t looking to get as fast or as intense of a high.

The high a person gets when snorting will take longer to manifest, but will last for several hours.

Can You Snort Heroin?

Yes, some people may snort heroin via sniffing powdered heroin up through their nose.

How is Heroin Snorted?

Users divide the heroin powder into lines before snorting it.

Snorting will not get a person high as quickly as smoking or injecting. But, people snort heroin because it is less stigmatizing than injecting it.

What Are the Dangers of Snorting Heroin?

There are many risks that can come from snorting heroin which include:

  • Risk of Tolerance: Due to the highly addictive nature of heroin, repetitive use leads to tolerance. The more frequently a person uses heroin,the more a person will have to invest to reach the previous high.
  • Risk of Sinus Infections: When someone snorts heroin, the particles in the powder are irritating to the nasal passages and sinuses. As a result, snorting heroin can lead to chronic congestion, sinus infections, including fungal infections.
  • Risk of Loss of Smell: Over time, snorting heroin can cause irreversible damage to the nose. This can result in a loss of smell, among other things.
  • Risk of Nose Bleeds: As snorting heroin damages the lining of the nose, nosebleeds are a common side effect. These can happen after snorting the drug or at random times because of continued use.
  • Risk of Getting Hepatitis C: Snorting heroin can put you at risk of contracting hepatitis C from sharing bank notes, pipes or other snorting paraphernalia.
  • Risk of Deviated Septum: If you snort heroin regularly, the cartridge between the nostrils known as the septum can deteriorate. Over time, this can lead to users developing a hole between their nostrils.
  • Risk of Issues Swallowing and Speaking: As snorting heroin will lead to some of the drug going down the throat, users may experience trouble swallowing or notice changes to their speech.
  • Risk of Inflammation and Breathing Difficulties: Users that snort heroin may experience inflammation in their nostrils, which can cause discomfort and make it difficult to breathe through the nose.
  • Increased Risk of an Overdose: The biggest risk of snorting heroin is overdose. Overdosing on heroin can be fatal. In 2019 alone, over 36,000 people in the US died because of an opiate overdose.

3. Smoking Heroin

Users may start by smoking heroin as it can be less intimidating than injecting it. However, over time they may be at risk of moving to injecting heroin in order to feel a more intense high.

Can You Smoke Heroin?

Yess, you can smoke heroin by heating it up and inhaling the fumes through your mouth into your lungs.

How is Heroin Smoked?

Users will normally smoke heroin by heating it up on a piece of aluminum foil and then inhaling the vapor.

There are other ways users might choose to smoke heroin which includes rolling it into a joint with cannabis, using a glass pipe or adding it to tobacco cigarette.

What Are the Dangers of Smoking Heroin?

There are many risks that can come from smoking heroin which include:

  • Risk of Respiratory Issues: A user may have trouble breathing, experience wheezing, fluid in the lungs and feel short of breath. They also may be at risk of developing chronic lung problems such as COPD and have a higher chance of suffering from emphysema and pneumonia.
  • Risk of Addiction: As smoking heroin can bring intense feelings of euphoria and allow the substance to enter the bloodstream quickly, this can put users at risk of addiction and forming a habit.
  • Risk of Permanent Brain Damage: There are links between smoking heroin and developing toxic leukoencephalopathy (TL) which is a form of brain damage that worsens over time. Individuals suffering from TL may experience slurring of the speech, changes to their speech, difficulty processing and retaining information, twitches and trouble thinking clearly.

What Are Other Serious Complications From the Way Heroin is Used?

Smoking any drug poses a risk of lung infection, but heroin increases this risk. Heroin will slow a person’s respiratory rate, putting them in danger of contracting pneumonia. Smoking any substance — especially heroin — also increases the risk of contracting lung cancer.

Injection is the most common way people abuse heroin. It is also the riskiest way a person can take heroin because it dramatically increases the risk of contracting a bloodborne infection.

In places where heroin use is rampant, HIV and hepatitis rates are up. In addition, people who inject heroin sometimes share dirty needles, either on purpose or accidentally, thus transmitting these deadly illnesses to others.

People who inject are also likely to be addicted to more than just heroin. Nine in 10 users inject at least one other substance.

Short-Term and Long-Term Complications of Heroin Use

Aside from initial feelings of euphoria, people also may also experience the following unwanted symptoms and side-effects from the way they use heroin:

  • Dry mouth
  • Heavy limbs
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • A crawling sensation on the skin
  • Itching that won’t stop
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Falling in and out of consciousness (also called nodding)
  • Sleeplessness
  • Tissue damage in the nasal passages
  • Abscesses at the site of injection
  • Indigestion and constipation
  • Cirrhosis and liver disease
  • Pneumonia
  • Mental disorders
  • Heart infections
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Abnormal menstrual cycles

Contaminated Heroin Risk

Batches of mixed heroin are less expensive, but without knowing what is in it, the person taking it is at risk of severe health problems. In addition, contaminated heroin can mask the signs of a heroin overdose.

Sometimes drug dealers add these substances to the drug so that it appears to weigh more. They do this for profit and, often, at the cost of a person’s life.

Although heroin comes in many different forms, the powder is the most common.

It can be white, brown, black, or gray, but white is the most common color. Heroin is almost impossible to distinguish from cocaine when in its white form.

Heroin dissolves in water quickly, making injection the easiest way to use the drug.

To stretch the amount of heroin, some sellers add in foreign substances such as:

  • Caffeine
  • Talcum powder
  • OTC painkillers
  • Poison
  • Baking soda
  • Sugar
  • Powdered milk
  • Laundry detergent

Pure heroin will dissolve very quickly, no matter how it is taken. But these added ingredients are coarser, larger, and won’t disintegrate like heroin powder.

As a result, they can become lodged in a person’s soft tissues, veins, arteries, and organs. Once they become lodged, they can kill off tissues and cells. This increases the risk of necrosis — also called tissue death — leading to sepsis.

Sepsis is an extreme response to infection, causing organ damage and failure. Sepsis is life-threatening if not treated immediately. One in three people who develop septic shock from sepsis will die.

Ways to Get Help for a Heroin Addiction

If you or someone you love is addicted to heroin or opioid drugs, the experienced counselors and doctors at Zinnia Health are standing by to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Don’t hesitate to contact the compassionate team at Zinnia Health at (855) 430-9439 to learn more about medically-assisted detox and drug addiction counseling for heroin abuse.

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(855) 430-9439
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