Heroin is a highly addictive drug; an estimated 600,000 people need treatment for their addiction.
Abuse of heroin is associated with serious health conditions, including fatal overdose, spontaneous abortion, collapsed veins, and infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
Chronic use of heroin can lead to infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, cellulitis, and liver disease. Various types of pneumonia may result due to heroin’s depressing effects on respiration.
Heroin also contains additives that do not readily dissolve and result in clogging the blood vessels that lead to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain.
With regular heroin use, tolerance develops. As a result, the user must use more heroin to get the same effect. As the person uses higher doses over time, addiction develops. The body has grown accustomed to the heroin, and without it the body goes into withdrawal.
Withdrawal can occur as early as a few hours after the last use, and produces drug craving, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea and vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps, kicking movements, and other symptoms. Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 to 72 hours after the last dose and subside after about a week. Sudden withdrawal can be fatal.