Heroin Facts

Heroin overdose is a particular risk because the amount and purity of the drug cannot be accurately known.

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Clockwise from top: Black tar heroin, brown powdered heroin and white powdered heroin

Clockwise from top: Black tar heroin, brown powdered heroin and white powdered heroin

Class of drug: Narcotic/Opiate

Main active ingredient: Morphine, which is processed and extracted from the seed pod of certain poppy plants

What it looks like: Powder (white to dark brown), tar-like substance

Street names: Smack, Horse, Brown Sugar, Junk, Mud, Big H, Black Tar, White Boy

How it is used: Injected, inhaled or smoked

Duration of high: Euphoria sets in within seven seconds (intravenous injection), two to five minutes (intramuscular injection) or 10 to 15 minutes (sniffed or smoked). The high lasts from 10 to 30 minutes. Euphoria is followed by lethargy, sleepiness and apathy.

Withdrawal symptoms: Restlessness, yawning, muscle and bone pain, cold flashes with goose bumps, diarrhea, vomiting and insomnia. Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 24 to 48 hours after the last dose and subside after a week. Heroin withdrawal is never fatal in otherwise healthy adults.

Detected in the body: One to three days


Immediate: A rush, accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth and heavy feeling in the extremities, slowed breathing, slowed cardiac function, suppression of pain, clouded mental functioning

Long-term: Contaminated injection equipment may transmit diseases such as HIV and hepatitis, collapsed veins, infection of heart lining and valves, tuberculosis

Sources: American Medical Association, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Drug Abuse Warning Network, National Drug Intelligence Center, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration