Some people smoke heroin to avoid the stigma that is associated with injecting it. Others smoke it because they believe it is safer or less addictive.
Heroin is dangerous no matter how the drug is abused. All ways of using heroin can lead to addiction, however, the drug reaches the brain more quickly when smoked or injected. Because of this, smoking heroin can increase the odds that a person becomes addicted.
Both powdered and black tar heroin can be smoked. Heroin may be smoked in a glass pipe or heated on foil so that the fumes can be inhaled, a method known as chasing the dragon. Some individuals lace cigarettes or marijuana joints with heroin as well.
The dangers of smoking heroin and chasing the dragon can be serious and include lung problems, addiction, painful withdrawal, and deadly overdose.
Fortunately, with the right treatment plan, freedom from heroin addiction is possible.
Smoking Heroin Side Effects And Symptoms
When heroin is smoked, the effects are felt more slowly when compared to other ways of using the drug, with euphoric feelings experienced in 10 to 15 minutes.
Other short-term effects and signs of smoking heroin include:
- clouded thoughts
- dry mouth
- going on the nod
- extreme itching
- heaviness in the arms and legs
- nausea and vomiting
- warm, flushed skin
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Long-term effects of smoking heroin can be more serious and include constipation, deterioration of the brain’s white matter, insomnia, and mental health disorders, such as antisocial personality disorder and depression.
Lung Problems From Smoking Heroin
Smoking heroin can take an immense toll on the lungs. As an opioid, heroin can block air from making its way into the lungs and cause respiratory depression. Respiratory depression slows breathing and often results in life-threatening breathing problems.
When paired with the poor health that often accompanies heroin abuse, depressed respiration can lead to serious lung complications, such as certain types of pneumonia and tuberculosis.
Smoking heroin can also lead to other health and medical problems:
Chronic Coughing From Heroin
Even though heroin normally suppresses coughing, smoking it on a regular basis may cause a chronic, racking cough. If heroin is laced into cigarettes, the tar and nicotine from the tobacco may make the cough even worse.
Smoking Heroin And Asthma
Individuals who have asthma and smoke heroin may experience a worsening of their asthma symptoms. Research also suggests that heroin abuse may lead to the development of asthma.
People with asthma who smoked heroin were more likely to be hospitalized in the intensive care unit and need intubation and invasive ventilation, according to research. An asthma attack from heroin may become so severe that a person die.
Individuals who abuse heroin may not take care of themselves and use their medications as they should. This could worsen a person’s symptoms and increase the risks for these serious complications even more.
COPD From Smoking Heroin
Research shows that smoking heroin may lead to the early development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This progressive lung disease can increase a person’s risk for heart disease and lung cancer.
Specially, the study found higher rates of early onset emphysema from smoking heroin.
Heroin Abuse And HIV/AIDS And Hepatitis B and C
Smoking heroin can increase the likelihood that a person take part in risky behaviors, such as unsafe sex, that transmit these potentially deadly viruses. People who are extremely addicted to heroin may also trade sexual favors for the drug, a behavior that carries this risk as well.
Overdose From Smoking Heroin
When people think of a heroin overdose, they may be quick to picture a person who injects the drug. Some may even wonder if you can overdose from smoking heroin.
As such a potent opioid drug, heroin can cause overdose any way it’s taken, including when it’s smoked. Severe overdose from smoking heroin can cause coma or death.
Signs and side effects of an overdose from smoking heroin include:
- bluish nails and lips
- low blood pressure
- pinpoint pupils
- shallow, slow, or stopped breathing
- weak pulse
Other Risks And Dangers Of Smoking Heroin
More mild side effects of smoking heroin include a changed voice and hoarseness, however, more serious dangers can occur.
Some people may not realize they’re smoking heroin on cigarettes or marijuana. An individual without a tolerance for heroin could become very sick or even overdose from using the drug this way.
The dangers of chasing the dragon or smoking heroin also include toxic leukoencephalopathy, a serious condition that can cause extensive damage to the brain’s white matter.
In the least, toxic leukoencephalopathy can cause inattention and forgetfulness, with severe effects including dementia, personality changes, a type of speech disorder, coma, and death.
Treating Addiction From Smoking Heroin
Heroin addiction can be severe. Because of this, a detox program is often recommended prior to rehab. Severe addiction may be best treated in an inpatient drug rehab program as well.
A detox program for heroin treats the physical addiction, while rehab treats the psychological and behavioral elements.
The best heroin addiction treatment programs offer individualized services that tailor treatment to meet the unique needs of each client.