Dangers of Snorting and Smoking Heroin
Heroin is a potent opioid drug that carries a high potential for leading to addiction. Heroin use can cause severe mental and physical health conditions and comes with serious health risks. In 2017, an opioid crisis was announced in the US due to overwhelming deaths due to opioid overdoses. This crisis was fuelled in part by the marketing of opioids by pharmaceutical companies. Some people will start by taking prescription drugs and move to heroin as it becomes cheaper and easier to access.
There are risks that come with taking heroin in any way, but additional risks depend on the method you use for administration. We will discuss the dangers of taking heroin and the additional risks of snorting and smoking it. If you or a loved one is smoking or snorting heroin it is not too late to get treatment.
What is Heroin?
Heroin is a semi-synthetic opioid that is derived from morphine. It crosses from the blood into the brain where it is modified into morphine. Despite acting as morphine in the brain, heroin is more potent as it crosses into the brain faster than morphine which causes a more intense high. Heroin causes euphoria, analgesia, and anxiety reduction.
Heroin use can rapidly develop into an addiction. This is a disease that causes you to lose control of your substance use. Due to its high potential for abuse and addiction, heroin is classed as a Schedule I substance. This means that it is not recognized to have any medical use. In 2021, three million Americans were suffering from an opioid use disorder and more than 500,000 people were dependent on heroin.
Heroin is usually a white powder but can be gray or black depending on impurities. Common impurities include quinine, fentanyl, and ketamine. Injecting heroin is a common way to take it but it can also be used by snorting or smoking it. While people tend to think that a heroin injection is the most dangerous way to take it, there are risks that come with smoking and snorting heroin as well.
Dangers of Taking Heroin
Whether you are injecting heroin or taking it in another way there are effects and dangers to it. Some effects of heroin use include:
- Slowed heart rate and breathing
- Decreased cognitive function
- Poor coordination
- Chronic constipation and intestine damage
- Liver and kidney disease
- Heart infections
- Increased risk of pneumonia
- Major organ damage
Drug abuse can also lead to the breakdown of relationships. It can take over your life, becoming the most important thing which makes it very difficult to maintain relationships. You may run into financial and legal challenges which put additional strain on the relationship. You may end up surrounding yourself with other heroin users over time.
There is also the risk of developing a substance use disorder. Since heroin is such a potent drug it can lead to dependency and addiction even after a single use. Once you have developed a substance use disorder it can be very difficult to quit without help, making it more likely that you will continue taking heroin and suffer from the long-term effects of this.
Dangers Due to Smoking and Snorting Heroin
There are additional risks that come with smoking or snorting heroin. Some people may snort or smoke heroin because there is less stigma around this than injecting it. It is easier to think that you do not have a problem with substance abuse when you are not injecting as this is the image that many see when they think of heroin addiction.
There is an idea that you are less likely to overdose if you snort heroin. However, this can be the opposite. People who snort heroin may be more likely to be casual users, for example, taking it for some time and then stopping for a period. When they take it again their tolerance will have reduced due to having a break and if they take the same dose that they were taking the last time they took it, there is an increased risk that they overdose. Other dangers of snorting heroin include:
- Damage to the nasal membrane
- Nasal irritation
- Loss of smell
- Nose bleeds
- Holes in the nasal septum and even in the soft palate of the mouth with prolonged use
- Trouble swallowing
- Infections including in the upper respiratory pathway
Many people who snort heroin will start taking it in different ways, such as smoking, later. Smoking heroin requires more paraphernalia but leads to a quicker high. People will tend to smoke it with a pipe or by heating it on tinfoil and using a tube to inhale the vapor. This is known as chasing the dragon. Dangers of smoking heroin include:
- Respiratory problems such as trouble breathing
- Persistent cough
- Increased risk of pneumonia
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Damage to the white matter in the brain, which can lead to muscle spasms and sometimes death
Whichever way you take heroin, there is a risk of overdosing. It is important to know the signs of a heroin overdose in case you recognize it in yourself or someone else. Signs include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Weak pulse
- Bluish nails and lips
- Low blood pressure
If you see someone experiencing these symptoms or believe that you are, you should call 911 for medical assistance immediately. If someone is unconscious you can put them in the recovery position so that they cannot choke if they vomit.
Related: Dangers of mixing Heroin and Alcohol
Signs Someone is Snorting or Smoking Heroin
If you can recognize when someone is smoking or snorting heroin, you may be able to support them. The earlier you get treatment for a heroin use disorder the easier it is to recover. Signs that someone is smoking or snorting heroin include:
- Runny nose and sniffing when not sick
- Nasal inflammation
- Nasal irritation – rubbing or picking at nostrils
- Hole in septum
- Rolled banknotes or paper, straws, white powdery residue on surfaces of credit cards
- Having a pipe or tin foil that has been heated
It can also be helpful to understand signs of substance abuse in case you or someone you love has developed one to heroin. You may think that people who are addicted to heroin follow the stereotype of being homeless, unemployed, and shooting up on the street. This may be the case for some and should be treated with the same importance and care as anyone else with a disease. But they may also have a full-time job and a family and stay on top of their responsibilities.
It is important to understand the signs of substance abuse so that you can accept if you or a loved one has a problem. It is unlikely that you will be able to continue life as normal for long if you have a heroin addiction.
Behavioral signs of addiction include:
- Social withdrawal
- Not taking care of personal hygiene
- Declining performance at school or work
- Trying to quit and not managing
- Losing interest in activities that were once enjoyed
- Risk-taking behaviors
- Failing to meet responsibilities
- Loss of control over drug use
If you or a loved one is struggling with drug abuse, you should get help from specialized addiction treatment services. Substance abuse treatment can help you at any point, whether you have been using heroin for a few months or a few decades. The first stage of treatment is medical detox. This is when you stop taking heroin to allow it to leave your body. At this point, you will experience withdrawal symptoms. It is recommended that you get help from addiction specialists as there are risks of detoxing from heroin at home. These include relapsing, dehydration, and self-harm.
At an addiction center, you will be monitored and given addiction medicine to help you deal with withdrawal symptoms. Some treatment centers offer outpatient treatment programs where you can detox from home rather than on-site. Addiction treatment in this way still includes receiving medical assistance and medication if needed and you will typically have access to a twenty-four-hour phone line if you experience any problems.
Get Help Today
If you are struggling with drug abuse or addiction we are here to help at Brookdale. Our facility is located in the Pocono Mountains, overlooking a private lake. This gives you a soothing environment so that your chances of a successful recovery are as high as possible. If you are worried about people finding out that you are suffering from an addiction, have no fear, we offer discrete treatment to suit your needs.
We offer treatment plans tailored to your individual recovery needs with treatment options including:
- Individual therapies
- Motivational interviewing
- 12-step programs
- Gender-specific therapy
We also offer luxury amenities including:
- Sauna and pools
- Recreation center and sports such as tennis and yoga
- Hair salon
- Dietary plan
Please visit our website or call us at (855) 575-1292 to find out more or to start your recovery journey with Brookdale Drug Rehab Pennsylvania.