Long term effects of heroin addiction (INFOGRAPHIC)

Repeated heroin use changes the physical structure and physiology of the brain. More here on the side effects from long-term heroin use, which aren’t only health-related.

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Using heroin long term affects ALL aspects of life

In this infographic we present the side effects from long-term heroin use, which aren’t only health-related. People who are addicted to heroin can face:

  • brain, lungs, liver and heart damage
  • compromised values or internal guiding principles
  • compromised immune system and infection susceptibility
  • destroyed interpersonal relations
  • job loss and unemployment
  • infertility and loss of sex drive for both men and women
  • intense sadness and depression
  • suicidal thoughts and/or actions

Repeated heroin use and addiction

Repeated heroin use can also change the physical structure and physiology of the brain. Heroin creates long-term imbalances in the function of neurons and hormones, which are not easily reversed. Further, repeated use of heroin often results in addiction. Heroin addiction is characterized by:

Long term effects of heroin addiction (INFOGRAPHIC)

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  1. compulsive use
  2. uncontrollable drug-seeking behavior (no matter the consequences)
  3. chronic relapsing that goes beyond physical dependence

Long term heroin use: Tolerance and dependence

Heroin produces profound degrees of tolerance and physical dependence in users. Tolerance occurs when more and more of the drug is required to achieve the same effects. On the other hand, physical dependence is associated with the body adapting to the presence of the drug and the manifestation of withdrawal symptoms if use is reduced or stopped abruptly.

Questions about long term use of heroin

As this infographic shows, heroin affects every single aspect of a user’s life, plus it affects the lives of family, friends and loved ones.

If you or someone you know is abusing heroin, remember that it’s never too late to seek help. If there’s something you’d like to ask or add, we welcome your comments and questions in the section below. We try to provide personal and prompt response to all legitimate inquiries.

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. hi… i am in love with a beautiful man. I noticed he disappears for an hour or so here and there… and his eyes kinda roll a bit. he moves funny sometimes. and he gets really hot and sweaty at night. I have to clean the sheets every day. his mouth gets really dry too. his stomach really hurts and his body acheshop sometimes too. I’ve never known anyone on drugs before. I’m wondering if this is heroine use? he manages to get to work everyday. and he is incredibly intelligent. he reads a lot of books too. he told me he doesn’t do drugs when I asked. but I feel something is off. is it possible for someone to do this drug and still manage to hold this together? he forgets things and somehow is broke all the time. he’s a bit sloppy. I wonder how I can intervene with love and support? is it best for me to just leave. I really care about him. but I don’t know how to approach it if he doesn’t want to tell me himself.

  2. I have been dating a former herion addict for almost a year. He used to smoke it. We recently broke up because he has erratic behavior. He has trouble processing his emotions, he can go from being calm to being explosively angry about things that don’t really matter which seem to be fueled by paranoia that people are against him and can go back to being calm shortly after. Small things set him off and he always feels he needs to look into friends or family that’s against him. He can’t plan for the future or even a weekend. Are these possibly related to brain damage from prior addiction?

  3. Hello Ms. Disappointed. To clarify, did you use heroin? Or do you suspect that the clinic has given you a false positive? You can always request:

    1. A second confirmation test of the sample you gave.
    2. A new test. Hair testing is especially useful in proving or providing evidence of clean time for 30-90 days or more.

    Best to you!

  4. Well some one tell me ; what do u do when the treatment center u go to sabitosh your test , I was Doin good been in my program for more than 4 yrs haven’t had a dirty for yrs , doctors change nurses change and now iam in relaps , hurt disappointed , how can I trust these folks again ?

  5. Heroin is as close to the Devil as anything in this life can ever be. I have lost way too many friends to this drug, at least 4 friends have died from it and being an addict myself when friends die and you are going to buy it and get high like nothing happened the next day it is a feeling that no one should ever have to experience. I know us addicts are selfish and we “choose” to do this drug, but please have patience with us and understand it is no longer in our control when an addiction really gets going. I have compromised my morals and my health to keep my addiction going, I have tried to stop 4 times now, I really see myself doing heroin forever until I am 6 feet underground and I just couldn’t care less.

    If that is all appealing to you then by all means try doing it, there is no “Rush” like the movies portray, you shoot up and don’t feel anything for at least 10 minutes yet we are told things like Kurt Cobain shot up a fatal ammount and still had the needle in his arm, I do 5 times the ammount he did in his autopsy every day and I don’t get high I just use it to not feel sick. I feel so bad for my family and my Mom if I do die from heroin, I wish I could tell them I’m sorry and let them know what I am going through and that death would mean I am finally done with this horrible cycle of addiction.

    Please if you are on it, be honest with your loved ones and let them help you, you owe it to yourself to get clean. If you have a friend on it, stick with them and realize they have a death wish they care about you alot but they just want to die most of the time. If you are clean and thinking about doing heroin for the first time, RUN the **** away as fast as you can while you have your friends family money and loved ones. You have NO idea the fire you are playing with, it is not glamourous, it is not sultry or alluring, you will quickly be 4 months into your addiction and going a week without showering cause youre too fucked up to even do that, you will stink and have no friends and likely be stealing or prostituting to afford your habit, and you will wish you just listened and stayed away from it.

    Keep your beautiful soul and body, we only get one and only have one life, take it from me an addict of less than a year who has almost died many times and who has spent 20,000$ on it and my arms are permanantly scarred from the needles, I ruined my career and no one will hire me because I am so fucked up all the time and when I don’t have it I am too sick to even get out of bed, it has taken everything from me. I’m just a stranger but if even one person reads this and decides to stay away from this awful drug I will have saved someones life. God bless. <3

  6. Hi Lori. the first feeling heroin users have is the “rush”, which can be accompanied by warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth, and a heavy feeling in the extremities, which may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and severe itching. Have you tried to set up an intervention? If he’s on drugs, he is in big denial and needs medical help.

  7. Does heroin cause a fever?. When I suspect my husband is on drugs, his hands will be hot to the touch. Also he has more nasty gas a lot of the times I suspect drug use, and I taste a sweet chemical taste when we kiss when I suspect drug use, and now the lines of cuts in his nose are getting worse and deeper. I want to get him help and have found some places at church that he said sounded good but hell say he doesn’t do drugs but I can tell the symptoms and see his nose getting worse and dont know what to do and why he is using and how to get him to tell me he does have a drug problem.

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