Heroin misuse is associated with a number of serious health conditions, including fatal overdose, and infectious diseases like hepatitis and HIV. Once addicted, the person’s main purpose in life becomes getting and using drugs.
Chronic users may develop:
- Collapsed veins
- Infection of the heart lining and valves
- Constipation and gastrointestinal cramping
- Liver or kidney disease
- Arthritis and other rheumatologic problems
Infectious diseases, for example, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C (due to shared needles)
Pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia, may result from the poor health of the user as well as from heroin’s effects on breathing.
In addition to the effects of the drug itself, street heroin often contains toxic additives that can clog blood vessels leading to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain, causing permanent damage to vital organs.
One of the most detrimental long-term effects of heroin use is addiction itself. Heroin also produces profound degrees of tolerance and physical dependence which are powerful motivating factors for compulsive use and misuse. As with misusers of any addictive drug, heroin misusers gradually spend more and more time and energy obtaining and using the drug. Once addicted, the primary purpose in life becomes seeking and using drugs.
Physical dependence develops with higher doses of the drug. With physical dependence, the body adapts to the presence of the drug and withdrawal symptoms occur if use is reduced abruptly.