You are here:

Got a relationships question?

worried girl

Get expert help on mates, dating, being in a couple and family life.

Next Steps

  • Talk to Frank - Free information and advice about drugs.
    Tel: 0800 776600
  • Release - Advice on drugs and legal problems.
    Tel: 0845 4500 215

Related articles

HIV and Aids

What is HIV, how do you get it, and how does it affect your life?

Understanding addiction

What is an addiction and how does it work?

Coming off different drugs

Your guide to cleaning up safely - whatever drug you're dependent on.

A hankering for heroin

What are the risks involved with taking heroin?

Healing after heroin

Is she suffering withdrawal or is she using again?

Heroin and opiates: the story

Heroin is a powerful opiate, which is usually smoked or injected. Here's the story of one of the worlds most addictive and destructive drugs.

The teenage drug dealer

At 17, Lee already has a string of convictions and drug addiction to his name.

Coming off heroin

Nicola tells how she got her life back on track after becoming addicted to heroin.

Connect with us on

  • connect with us on facebook
  • connect with us on twitter
  • connect with us on youtube
Are you prepared for the Morning After?

Find out about your hazy relationship with drink and sex.

Our Community

Girl thinking

Need someone to talk to? Check out our message boards - a safe space to talk about whatever's on your mind :)

Local advice finder

Search our database of more than 16,500 local, regional and national organisations which offer advice and support.

Latest articles



Heroin has a reputation as one of the most addictive drugs out there, but what are its effects and what are the risks of taking it?

Heroin is a painkilling drug made from morphine, which is derived from the opium poppy. Synthetic substitutes such as methadone are sometimes used as a substitute. Heroin is usually sold in the form of a brownish-white powder which users snort, smoke or prepare for injection.

What are the effects of heroin?

  • In small doses, heroin gives users a profound sense of warmth and wellbeing.
  • Some first time users may experience nausea or vomiting, especially after injecting.
  • Larger doses can lead to drowsiness.

What are the risks of taking heroin?

  • Heroin is a very addictive drug and many users may find their habit spirals out of control.
  • Tolerance often develops, meaning the user needs more and more heroin to get the same effect.
  • Many users who start out smoking heroin turn to injecting for a more intense hit.
  • Sharing needles when injecting heroin leaves users at risk of dangerous infections like HIV, hepatitis and gangrene.
  • Users trying to kick the habit may experience a period of diarrhoea, insomnia, vomiting, hot and cold sweats, and cramps.
  • While many people give up heroin successfully, mentally it can take years to be free.

The law and heroin:

Heroin, morphine, opium, methadone, dipapanone, and pethidine are all Class A drugs: possession could lead to up to seven years in prison. Codeine and dihydrocodeine (DF 118) are Class B drugs, but both drugs become Class As when prepared for injection.

Slang terms for heroin:

Smack, skag, H, horse, junk, brown, gear and China white.

Other heroin-related terms:

Chasing the dragon: to take heroin by smoking it.

Cold turkey: to abruptly stop using heroin and go into withdrawal.

Poor man's speedball: a mixture of heroin and amphetamines.

Speedball: a mixture of heroin and cocaine.

Ten bag/ ten spot: a bag of heroin

If you're planning on taking heroin:

As a rule, never share needles. Sharing equipment just isn't worth the risk. Clean works are available free from local needle exchanges and some pharmacies.

Updated: 12/04/2010

  • Print this page
  • Share/Bookmark

We use cookies to make your experience of better. To accept cookies use 'continue', to find out how to get rid of them use 'manage cookies'.

continue manage cookies