Heroin is an opiate (narcotic) drug processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of certain varieties of poppy plants grown in Mexico, South America, Southeast Asia and Southwest Asia. Heroin comes in a white or brownish powder, or a black sticky substance known as “black tar heroin.” Heroin is often cut with other drugs, such as fentanyl, or substances such as sugar or powdered milk. The user is typically unaware of whether the heroin being used has been cut with any other substance or drug, which in the case of heroin being cut with fentanyl, greatly increases the risk of overdose or death.

Heroin goes by the names of Big H, black tar, chiva, hell dust, smack and thunder. It is most often injected, but can also be smoked or snorted. High purity heroin is usually snorted or smoked.

Because heroin enters the brain so rapidly, it is particularly addictive, both psychologically and physically. Heroin users report feeling a surge of euphoria or “rush” followed by a twilight state of sleep and wakefulness.

Heroin affects the body in the following ways:

  • Physical symptoms of use include: drowsiness, respiratory depression, constricted pupils, nausea, a warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth, and a sensation of heavy extremities.
  • Overdose symptoms include: slow and shallow breathing, blue lips and fingernails, clammy skin, convulsions, and coma
  • Severe overdose can lead to death