Whether heroin is smoked, snorted, or injected, there is a range of long and short-term health effects. When someone quits using heroin, their body can start to heal itself. But even short-term use of heroin can lead to lifelong health effects.
Heroin use will cause insomnia and constipation. Getting high on heroin or other opioid-derivative drugs will cause someone’s respiratory rate to slow, sometimes to dangerous levels. This repeated lowering of respiratory rate can lead to chronic lung issues, including pneumonia. Heroin addicts are also at increased risk of contracting tuberculosis, and heroin use can also cause problems with fertility and sexual dysfunction. Long-term heroin use can change someone’s personality and their mental health, and they can become depressed, irritable, and antisocial from heroin addiction.
The way a person gets high on heroin will cause specific consequences associated with the method of administration. Users who snort the drug will cause damage to the nasal passages, and in severe cases, the drug can perforate the nasal septum, which can only be fixed with expensive and invasive surgical procedures.
Other medical complications of heroin include collapsed veins, scarring, and skin infections from injecting the drug. The valves and blood vessels in the heart can become infected from chronic heroin use as well. Illegal street heroin can have chemicals in it that do not dissolve and can clog the blood vessels, veins, and arteries in the lungs, kidneys, brain, or liver. This can lead to infection or death of the organ tissues. The body can also have an immune reaction to these substances, and cause rheumatologic problems such as arthritis.
Sharing dirty needles is also a risk associated with heroin addiction. Users may not care about the consequences, or be too impaired to remember if a needle had already been used. Sharing dirty needles can lead to severe infections such as hepatitis B or C, and even HIV. HIV infection rates are on the rise in communities where heroin use is rampant.