Short and Long Term Effects of Heroin

When people think of drug abusers, they might picture dangerous-looking, unkempt individuals as part of some secret society. Truth be told, users of illicit drugs are not limited to the stereotypical views mentioned above.

What is heroin, what are the short and long term effects of heroin, and how do you spot a person abusing this drug? More importantly, how can you get help? Keep reading to learn everything there is to know about heroin abuse and treatment!

Weight Loss

In the short term, users may experience reduced appetite, changes in metabolism, dehydration, and vomiting. All of these effects can lead to a quick, drastic loss of weight over a period of a few weeks.

In the long term, continued and consistent use of heroin may lead to an even more extreme and rapid weight loss, exposing the body to further damage and organ failure.

Users face a significant risk of extreme weight loss and the associated damage it causes to the body.


People who are suffering from depression may be more likely to turn to drugs such as heroin in an attempt to ease their stress and feelings. Heroin users also experience more intense and difficult withdrawal symptoms after stopping the drug, which can also lead to feelings of depression both during and after withdrawal.

Long-term heroin use can have serious implications for mental health, such as increasing levels of anxiety and even leading to chronic depression. Additionally, heroin addicts may also be at risk for other mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Disrupted Sleeping Patterns

In the short term, users will feel the drug’s sedative effects, causing typical users to suddenly become sleepy and nod off frequently. This can result in long, erratic sleeping patterns either disrupted by regular awakenings or long periods of wakefulness.

On the other hand, users can suffer from insomnia as the drug can depress the central nervous system, resulting in difficulty falling and staying asleep. Longer-term effects of prolonged use can also cause an overall reduction in REM sleep, which is essential for normal brain functions.

Symptoms may range from cold sweats, headaches, and irritability to cognitive impairment, further exacerbating the disruption of normal sleeping patterns.


Heroin use is often accompanied by an intense craving for the drug, including sensations of itching. Short-term effects of heroin use include itching, which is usually felt on the skin but may originate from within the body. 

Users may suffer from skin rashes, infections, or abscesses that can be caused by exposure to the drug, which is often mixed with other substances like starch, sugar, or acepromazine which can irritate their skin.

Long-term exposure to the drug can weaken the user’s immune system, making them more susceptible to various skin infections such as folliculitis, impetigo, and cellulitis which can all be painful and dangerous if not treated properly. Heroin usage can lead to an increased number of unsafe sexual practices, which can result in the contraction of skin diseases such as scabies, herpes, and genital warts.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is considered a short-term effect of heroin abuse (among the most common ones). It can be caused by the sedative and calming effects of the drug, which can slow down the functions of the body, including saliva production.

A dry mouth can also be caused by related drug abuse, such as smoking. A dry mouth can also become a long-term problem as frequent, lengthy use of the drug can reduce saliva production and lead to dehydration.

A person may also suffer from several teeth and gum problems due to a lack of saliva in the mouth. Dry mouth, along with many other effects of regular heroin use, can lead to other serious conditions and lifestyle changes.

Recovering from heroin abuse and addiction requires a sustained effort and professional intervention.

Heavy Feeling in Extremities

It has a wide range of short and long-term effects on the body, including a heavy feeling in the extremities. In the short term, this heavy feeling may be accompanied by a general feeling of numbness or tingling.

Additionally, a person may experience slowed or shallow breathing, extreme drowsiness, cravings, and even slowed heart rate and possible cardiac arrest. In the long term, heavy feelings in the extremities can be accompanied by an increased risk of infection, organ and tissue damage, and an increased risk of overdose and death.

The overall impact of heroin on the body is absolutely devastating and should be avoided at all costs.


Heroin is a highly addictive substance with numerous physical and mental health consequences. It can also lead to an increased risk of infectious diseases, particularly tuberculosis (TB).

TB is a bacterial infection that affects the lungs, and people who have used heroin are significantly more likely to contract the disease. This is because heroin use can weaken the immune system, making it more difficult for the body to fight off bacteria.

It can also lead to permanent cognitive impairments, such as impairments in memory, learning, and processing information. Heroin can also lead to an increased risk of infection and other contagious diseases, again emphasizing the danger of TB specifically.

Heroin is a dangerous substance with far-reaching, devastating consequences that can last for years after an individual has stopped using the drug.

Chronic Constipation

Chronic constipation is a significant side-effect of heroin use, as the drug causes muscles lining the walls of the intestines to relax and slow down the normal movement of food and waste through the gut. This issue can become worse over time and lead to symptoms including hard stools, abdominal pain, and bloating.

Chronic constipation can lead to long-term issues, such as stool impaction, bowel obstruction, and in rare cases, colon perforation, which is a life-threatening condition. In addition, a buildup of toxins can also increase the risk of developing chronic illnesses.

Furthermore, physical withdrawal from heroin can cause intense constipation, so users should seek medical help if necessary in order to safely detox from the drug.

Collapsed Veins

The most commonly known effect is collapsed veins. Heroin is often injected directly into the veins, and people may inject in the same spot multiple times causing the veins to become weakened and eventually collapse. This is a primary reason why people turn to intravenous injections in other parts of the body.

Long-term use of heroin can cause painful scarring and ulceration known as “track marks.” Furthermore, the body may become desensitized to the effects of heroin, meaning it will have impaired functionality and require more and more of the drug to achieve the same result.

Additionally, cotton fever is a condition known by many long-term Heroin addicts and some meth addicts, who use cotton to filter the drugs when shooting up. So if you are wondering what is cotton fever, check out this link!

Heart Defects

Heroin has been found to cause both short and long-term effects on the heart when abused. In the short term, heroin use can cause decreased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and increased risk of a heart attack.

Long-term effects of heroin use are more dangerous and can include endocarditis (inflammation of the inner lining of the heart) and pulmonary edema (fluid accumulation in the lungs). In addition, the use of heroin can cause heart defects, including an enlarged heart or a thickened or narrowed valve.

These defects increase the risk of heart failure or stroke, making long-term heroin use especially dangerous for heart health. Therefore, anyone considering using heroin should be aware of the potential damage and consider abstaining from its use to protect their heart.

Disruption of Menstrual Cycles

In terms of the short-term effects of heroin on menstrual cycles, studies suggest that heroin use may lead to a decrease in the amount and duration of menstrual flow, as well as disproportionally high levels of progesterone hormone causing a disruption in the cycle.

Furthermore, menstrual irregularities such as heavy or light bleeding, or even missed periods, have been reported among women who use the drug. The long-term effects of heroin on menstrual cycles are even more serious and research studies show that long-term use of heroin can lead to permanent disruption in menstrual cycles in women, including incomplete or complete loss of the menstrual cycle leading to infertility, together with other long-term health complications.

Learn More About The Short and Long Term Effects of Heroin Now

Heroin is an incredibly dangerous and destructive drug. The short and long term effects of heroin use can have devastating and fatal consequences, including mental health problems, potential overdoses, and increased risk of other drug dependencies.

If you know someone struggling with heroin addiction, please encourage them to reach out for help.

Did you find this article helpful? Check out more of our blogs!