Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use

Medically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Heroin is one of the most dangerous illicit drugs on the market, and the long-term effects of heroin have shown to have a significant negative impact on physical health, brain physiology, emotional regulation, and more.

This article will take a closer look at some of the dangerous effects that heroin can have on the brain and body, but first let’s get a better understanding of the drug.

Drug manufacturers create heroin in the laboratory from morphine, a natural substance extracted from poppy plants. This drug is available in different forms, such as a white or brown powder, or black tar, and users inject, snort, or smoke heroin. The soothing effect of the drug makes it one of the most frequently abused in the U.S. However, the long-term side effects of heroin on the mind and body make it a dangerous drug.

If you want to overcome heroin abuse, Renaissance Recovery’s heroin rehab can offer valuable information and tools for your recovery.


Our compassionate team is one call away. Here to help every step of the way.

The Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use

Like any other drug, chronic use of heroin results in many consequences, some of which can be fatal. Heroin addiction is among the primary long-term effects. The pleasurable feeling that the drug gives forces users to take higher doses more frequently, causing dependence.

Millions of people in the U.S. suffered the effects of heroin abuse in 2015, according to many substance abuse experts. Furthermore, statistics reveal that heroin abuse has been steadily on the rise in the U.S. in the last decade.

Chronic substance use alters your physical structure and the brain’s physiology. Such changes result in long-term imbalances of the body’s neural and hormonal patterns, which are irreversible effects.

Other common long-term side effects of heroin abuse include cold sweats, respiratory complications, disrupted menstrual cycles in women, reduced sexual urge in men, memory loss, and insomnia.

Long-Term Effects of Heroin-Addicted Babies

If a woman is pregnant and using heroin, it can lead to complications with the birth of the child. Some of the health effects and can result in neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Some of the health problems that can occur include:

  • Excessive crying
  • Irritability
  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting

In extreme cases, this problem can lead to the death of the child. For those who are struggling with heroin addiction while pregnant, it is vital to get addiction treatment.

Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use on the Brain

Heroin is a highly addictive drug because of its euphoric effects. The substance binds to the opioid receptors, causing a release of a large amount of dopamine, which is a chemical that creates happiness.

Repeated exposure to heroin use changes the structure and physiology of the brain. It can create major hormonal and emotional changes that are not easily reversed. Studies have even shown that there is a deterioration of white brain matter in long-term heroin users which affects decision-making abilities and ability to regulate behavior.

When a physical dependence begins, the brain adjusts to the presence of heroin in the body, and dangerous withdrawal symptoms will occur when heroin use is reduced.

It’s critical to seek medical intervention if you or your loved ones exhibit the warning symptoms of addiction, including:

  • Significant weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Guilt, hopelessness, and depression
  • Disrupted sleeping patterns
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Strained relationships
  • Health conditions like pneumonia and tuberculosis
If you notice these signs in yourself or your loved one, get in contact with a treatment team today.

Short-Term Effects of Heroin

While the long-term effects of heroin can be detrimental, it is also important to learn about the short-term effects that can occur. When heroin first enters the brain it quickly binds to opioid receptors. When this happens, people feel a “rush” or “high” as feel-good chemicals flood the brain.

Unfortunately, there are a number of problematic short-term effects as well. Some common heroin short-term effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Itching
  • Dry mouth
  • Heavy feeling in extremities

Along with these, heroin can also cause clouded mental functioning and repressed breathing. The slowed breathing can lead to more dangerous problems like coma and permanent brain damage.

All of these are issues commonly occuring short-term heroin effects and while they are dangerous, they don’t even touch on the most dangerous — overdose

Heroin Overdose

In 2020, there were more than 13,000 heroin-related overdose deaths. Heroin use and overdoses have been steadily rising since the beginning of the Opioid Crisis as many people turn from prescription opioids to a cheaper, illicit option.

Seek Professional Heroin Addiction Treatment at Rehab

Overcoming substance dependence and addiction is a challenging journey. Many people who are eager to overcome the habit embark on a recovery journey only to experience relapse because of the overwhelming withdrawal syndrome.

If you are experiencing the long-term side effects of heroin, your recovery needs close monitoring from a healthcare provider. Attempting self-recovery techniques at home often leads to repeat relapse episodes, which can lead to overdose. It is essential to seek a drug-free environment that will help you achieve sobriety to get your healthy life back.

At rehab, the primary goal is to help you identify the root causes and triggers of your problem to overcome substance abuse. Rehabs can offer personalized addiction treatment services for men and women struggling to overcome heroin abuse. This way, you or a loved one can get the much-needed treatment for the symptoms of heroin abuse and other co-occurring disorders.

Learn More About the Effects of Heroin Abuse at Renaissance

A personalized addiction treatment program is effective in helping you quit heroin use permanently. At Renaissance Recovery Center, we combine several treatment strategies to create a customized plan for your unique situation. Some of these treatment modalities can include medication-assisted treatment to help people overcome withdrawal symptoms and dual diagnosis treatment to help those who are struggling with co-occurring mental health problems.

Our rehab facility will help you overcome the long-term side effects of heroin abuse and dependence. Contact Renaissance Recovery today to learn more about heroin abuse and rehab treatment programs.


Our compassionate team is one call away. Here to help every step of the way.

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At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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