How does heroin make you feel

Heroin’s effects are immediate and can drastically change a person’s mood, perception, and physical sensations. The initial feelings may seem powerful and enticing to many, but the long-term consequences of heroin use can be extremely destructive, leading to addiction, health problems, and even death. 

What is heroin?

Historically, heroin was initially developed and marketed by Bayer Pharmaceuticals in the late 19th century as a safer, non-addictive alternative to morphine. However, it was soon discovered that heroin metabolises into morphine once it enters the brain anyway, making it just as addictive, if not more so, than its predecessor.


Today, heroin is primarily produced in illegal laboratories, often mixed with other substances like sugar, starch, or other drugs to increase its volume and potency. This adulteration further increases the health risks associated with its use, including overdose and exposure to harmful contaminants.

Immediate physical effects


It begins with an immediate rush of intense pleasure and warmth, commonly referred to as a “rush” or “high.” Feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and detachment from physical and emotional pain meet this sensation. The rush is typically followed by drowsiness and tranquillity, where the individual may feel completely at ease and free from stress or worry.


Alongside these pleasurable sensations, heroin use also brings about several physical effects that can be both noticeable and dangerous. One of the most concerning effects is respiratory depression, where breathing becomes shallow and slow, posing a risk of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and potentially leading to coma or death. Additionally, heroin can cause a decrease in heart rate, lowered blood pressure, and a feeling of heaviness or numbness in the limbs.


The euphoria induced by heroin use only lasts a few hours, followed by a rapid decline in mood and energy. This can lead to a cycle of repeated use as individuals chase the initial high, increasing their tolerance and dependence on the drug over time.

Psychological effects


The most notable psychological effect of heroin use is the sense of relief from emotional pain, anxiety, and stress. Many individuals describe the drug’s ability to provide an escape from reality, offering a temporary reprieve from life’s challenges and difficulties.


However, this relief is often replaced by a cycle of pleasure and craving, leading to increased drug-seeking behaviour and addiction. Heroin’s impact on the brain’s reward system results in intense cravings, making it challenging for users to control their drug consumption and prioritise other aspects of their lives.


Over time, chronic heroin use can lead to significant changes in brain chemistry, affecting mood regulation, decision-making, and impulse control. This can manifest as mood swings, irritability, and impaired cognitive function, making it difficult for individuals to manage daily responsibilities and maintain healthy relationships.


The mental health implications of long-term heroin use are severe, with many users experiencing co-occurring disorders such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These mental health challenges often exacerbate the cycle of addiction, making recovery a complex and multifaceted process.

Cultural depiction


Depictions of heroin use have been no stranger to popular cinema. Most films about drug use tend to shy away from the darker realities of addictive potential. But two examples stand out starkly, showing both, how heroin makes you feel and the horrific aftermath of its abuse. 


One of the most iconic portrayals of heroin use in popular culture comes from the film Trainspotting, directed by Danny Boyle and based on Irvine Welsh’s novel of the same name. The movie offers a gritty and unflinching look into the lives of a group of young heroin addicts living in Edinburgh, Scotland, during the 1980s.


Trainspotting truly captures the absolute horror of heroin addiction, depicting both the highs and lows experienced by the characters. The film doesn’t shy away from showing the initial euphoria and pleasure derived from heroin use, illustrating how it can temporarily alleviate pain, boredom, and existential despair. Scenes like the Choose Life monologue and the infamous worst toilet in Scotland sequence provide a darkly humorous and surreal insight into the characters’ drug-fueled escapades.


However, Trainspotting also exposes the harsh realities and consequences of heroin addiction. It portrays the physical and psychological toll of prolonged drug use, including withdrawal symptoms, deteriorating health, strained relationships, and the constant cycle of craving and desperation. The film doesn’t glamorise or romanticise heroin; instead, it offers a stark and cautionary tale about the destructive nature of addiction.

Requiem for a dream


Requiem for a Dream is a haunting and intense film that delves into the lives of four individuals ensnared by their respective addictions. Directed by Darren Aronofsky and based on the novel by Hubert Selby Jr., the movie offers a grim portrayal of heroin use and its devastating impact on the characters’ lives.


The film showcases the euphoric highs and temporary relief heroin provides to the protagonists. Through stylised visuals and a pulsating soundtrack, Requiem for a Dream immerses viewers in the intoxicating world of drug-induced pleasure, emphasising the seductive nature of addiction.


However, as the story unfolds, the film takes a dark and harrowing turn, exposing the destructive consequences of heroin use. Requiem for a Dream vividly shows the physical and psychological deterioration of the characters, highlighting the grim realities of withdrawal, hallucinations, and despair that accompany prolonged drug use.

Additional risks


Intravenous drug use, a common method of heroin administration, introduces additional health risks, such as the transmission of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C. Sharing needles or other drug paraphernalia further heightens the risk of contracting these potentially life-threatening infections.


Psychologically, the cyclical nature of heroin use can lead to mood disturbances, cognitive impairments, and the onset of mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and psychosis. The ongoing pursuit of the drug and the associated lifestyle can also result in strained relationships, isolation from loved ones, and financial instability.


Socially and economically, heroin addiction can have devastating consequences, leading to unemployment, homelessness, and involvement in criminal activities to support a drug habit. The ripple effects of heroin use extend to families and communities, causing emotional turmoil, community deterioration, and placing a significant burden on healthcare and social support systems.


Understanding how heroin makes one feel is crucial in addressing the challenges posed by addiction. The cycle of addiction can be relentless, but with awareness, education, and access to comprehensive treatment options, recovery is possible. By working with UKAT, we can help you create a future free from heroin use.