Can You Get High on Heroin?

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Heroin can create extreme euphoria and a deep sense of well-being. The addictive properties and side effects are well documented. Learn more about whether heroin can get a person high and how it works.

Psychoactive Ingredients

Heroin is derived from morphine which is a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of certain varieties of poppy plants grown in Asia, Mexico and Colombia. The drug can trigger extreme sedation and euphoria by interacting with neurotransmitters in the central nervous system. Three components are important to know in heroin:

Diacetylmorphine: main psychoactive ingredient


Acetic anhydride

Heroin needs these three components and may be dissolved in water or injected into a vein, muscle or under the skin. Some people choose to smoke or snort the drug.

Euphoric Effects

Psychoactive ingredients in heroin produce an intensely pleasurable sensation deemed a ‘rush’ that occurs in seconds after injection and lasts just a few minutes. The ‘rush’ is followed by a tranquil phase lasting a few hours which results in happiness, relaxation and an absence of emotional and physical pain. Euphoric effects of heroin occur within seconds after injection or minutes after smoking or snorting because of the time it needs to reach the brain. Heroin’s effects may last as long as three to five hours. A person may experience a rush initially including:

  • Alternating states of wakefulness and drowsiness
  • Mouth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Severe itching

Central Nervous System Effects

Heroin is a depressant which acts on the central nervous system since the brain contains many opiate receptors. Once in the brain, heroin becomes morphine and binds to opiate receptors in the brain. This creates pain relief and nervous system depression. The brain’s neurotransmitters can cause clouded mental functioning and slowed breathing to the point of respiratory failure.

Getting High

Users of heroin report the drug can bring about a transcendent state of euphoria more intense than any other opiate or opioid. Getting high on heroin over and over can be a sign of heroin addiction. Different routes of administration trigger different onset effects for an individual. Intravenous injection is considered the fastest route of drug administration because it goes directly into the blood. Nasal and oral administration may not stimulate an equal ‘rush’ because the drug is absorbed more slowly rather than instantly. It is highly addictive when people increase the doses and, with it, the higher potential risk for psychological addiction.

When Addiction Happens

Dependency on heroin happens through frequent and regular use and tolerance can develop quickly. Increased doses are needed to achieve the same results. Some risks of use include:

  • Abscesses
  • Blood diseases like HIV and hepatitis
  • Failure of internal organs
  • Poisoning from other unknown substances combined with heroin
  • Reducing work of respiratory system which may result in death

Sustain Recovery provides support and assistance to young adults who are in recovery from addiction. Clients who need a longer-term solution are invited to consider our programs. Call us to find out how to get started.

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