The Feeling of Getting High on Heroin

What Does Heroin Feel ?

The Feeling of Getting High on Heroin
Chris Elkins, MA|Last Updated: 4/20/20|5 sources

Heroin doesn’t cause the same type of high that marijuana causes. It won’t make you feel a rush the high caused by crystal meth or cocaine. It makes you relaxed, but the feeling isn’t comparable to drunkenness caused by alcohol.

People who have used heroin say it makes you feel intensely calm. But they also say the feeling doesn’t last forever. The body adapts to the drug, and people who use heroin regularly don’t take the drug to get high.

Most of the time, they are trying to avoid withdrawal. They’re unable to quit using heroin, but people addicted to heroin rarely feel high. They’re trapped in a daily cycle of seeking heroin to feel normal.

What the First Heroin High Feels

Madeleine Ludwig began using heroin shortly after graduating high school. She was addicted to the drug for two years before recovering with the help of Suboxone and group counseling.

“I would feel a distinct heaviness throughout my body that was similar to when a person is extremely tired after a long day,” Ludwig told “That heaviness resembled a fatigue in which it was difficult to keep my eyes open. It was a comfort with whatever was going on around me: a blissful oblivion, even to incredibly dangerous situations.”

The blissful oblivion caused by heroin is often referred to as nodding. Heroin users who are nodding are somewhere between sleep and consciousness. They’re vulnerable to dangerous situations and are at an increased risk for getting into accidents.

The physical effects aren’t all positive, either. People who use heroin for the first time often vomit and feel disoriented. Heroin also causes itchiness and flushing of the skin.

What Regular Heroin Use Feels

With repeated use, the body adapts to heroin. It develops a tolerance to the drug that makes a person unable to achieve the same feelings with the same dose. People who use heroin regularly have to use higher doses to feel an effect.

“The more often I used it, the more unattainable those initial effects became,” Ludwig said. “Once I had an everyday habit, I was no longer using for the calming effects. I was using to avoid a painful physical withdrawal.

“I had to get high every day just to feel normal. Once I had developed a heroin addiction, the only instances when I would experience those initial effects of comfort and pain relief was when I would come across a relatively rare batch of uncut dope. This was uncommon.”

People who use heroin sporadically should use caution. Tolerance dissipates over time. If you have a high tolerance and then go a week without using heroin, your tolerance will lower. Taking the same dose that you took when your tolerance was high can cause an overdose, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

What a Heroin Overdose Feels

Most people who overdose on heroin don’t feel anything. Nodding off or falling asleep after using heroin is common, so many people say they felt they were falling asleep right before they overdosed.

If you’ve ever received anesthesia before a surgery, it’s ly a similar experience. Within a few seconds of receiving the drug, you’re asleep.

If you don’t die, the overdose may last several hours. Heroin stays in your system for about 30 minutes, but its metabolites, including morphine, stay in the body for multiple hours.

During a heroin overdose, you’ll struggle to breathe. You will have a weak pulse and low blood pressure. People may notice that your nails or skin are blue, that your extremities are limp or that your pupils are small. You won’t feel any of this because you’ll be unconscious. Bystanders won’t be able to wake you up.

If you recover from the overdose without medical help, you’ll feel drowsy, disoriented and constipated. You may have uncontrolled muscle movements and dry mouth.

If you receive a life-saving drug called naloxone, you may wake up feeling symptoms of heroin withdrawal. You may be agitated, confused and nauseous. You may throw up or have diarrhea. Regardless of how you wake up from the overdose, you should always seek or accept medical attention.

What Heroin Withdrawal Feels

Withdrawal occurs when a person who uses heroin regularly stops taking the drug. Heroin makes the brain become dependent on the drug to feel normal. When a dependent person stops taking the drug, it takes several days for the brain to get used to functioning without heroin.

“The physical withdrawal was fiercely uncomfortable,” Madeleine said. “It would start a nervous tick, such as excessive yawning or sneezing. Symptoms would progress to body aches and stomach pain.

“After several hours of not using, the constipating effects of heroin would wear off, causing uncontrollable diarrhea. Hot and cold sweats, restless legs, vomiting, lack of appetite and severe body pains caused insomnia that made the withdrawal even more miserable.”

For Madeleine, the withdrawal symptoms didn’t start to subside until four days after last use. People with less severe addictions may only experience withdrawal for a couple of days. Others feel withdrawal for more than a week.

Most people who are addicted to heroin or in recovery from heroin addiction agree the comfort that occurs the first time a person first tries heroin isn’t worth the pain and suffering that the drug causes in the long run.

Medical Disclaimer: aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes.

We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.


20143 Heroin

The Feeling of Getting High on Heroin

The opioid family of drugs includes natural, synthetic and semi-synthetic opioids. Opiates, such as morphine and codeine, are natural opioids found in the opium poppy. Synthetic opioids, such as methadone, are chemically made. Heroin is a semi-synthetic opioid: it is made from morphine that has been chemically processed. It enters the brain quickly and produces a more immediate effect.

The most common ways of using heroin are:

  • injecting either into a vein (“mainlining,” intravenous or IV use), into a muscle (intramuscular or IM use) or under the skin (“skin-popping” or subcutaneous use)
  • snorting the powder through the nose (also called sniffing)
  • inhaling or smoking (“chasing the dragon”), which involves gently heating the heroin on aluminum foil and inhaling the smoke and vapours through a tube.

Where does it come from?

Most heroin is produced in Asia and Latin America, where opium poppies are grown. Morphine is extracted from the opium gum in laboratories close to the fields, and then converted into heroin in labs within or near the producing country.

What does it look ?

In its pure form, heroin is a fine, white, bitter-tasting powder that dissolves in water.

When it is sold on the street, its colour and consistency vary depending on how it is made and what additives it has been “cut” with.

Street heroin may come in the form of a white powder, a brown and sometimes grainy substance or a dark brown sticky gum. The purity of heroin varies from batch to batch.

Some additives, such as sugar, starch or powdered milk are used to increase the weight for retail sale. Other drugs may be added to increase the effects of the heroin.

Fentanyl, a prescription opioid that is 100 times more powerful than morphine, is sometimes used to cut heroin or other street drugs. It may also be made into tablets that look prescription medication.

Many overdoses have occurred because people did not know that what they were taking was contaminated with fentanyl.

If you or someone you know uses opioids, it is a good idea to have a free naloxone kit. Naloxone is a medication that can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose and allow time for medical help to arrive.

Who uses it?

Heroin is used by a range of people from a variety of cultural, social, economic and age groups. First-time users tend to be in their teens or 20s, but most people who use heroin regularly are over 30.

How does it make you feel?

When heroin is injected into a vein, it produces a surge of euphoria, or “rush.” This feeling is not as intense when it is snorted or smoked. Following the rush, there is a period of sedation and tranquility known as being “on the nod.”

New users often experience nausea and vomiting. The desired effects include detachment from physical and emotional pain and a feeling of well-being. Other effects include slowed breathing, pinpoint pupils, itchiness and sweating. Regular use results in constipation, loss of sexual interest and libido and irregular or missed periods in women.

The way heroin affects you depends on many factors, including:

  • your age
  • how much you take and how often you take it
  • how long you’ve been taking it
  • the method you use to take the drug
  • the environment you’re in
  • whether or not you have certain pre-existing medical or psychiatric conditions
  • whether you’ve taken any alcohol or other drugs (illegal, prescription, over-the-counter or herbal).

How long does the feeling last?

If heroin is injected into a vein, the rush is felt in seven or eight seconds and lasts from 45 seconds to a few minutes. When it's injected under the skin or into a muscle, the effect comes on slower, within five to eight minutes.

Someone may be «on the nod” for up to an hour. Regardless of how it is used, the effects of heroin generally last for three to five hours, depending on the dose.

People who use heroin daily must use every six to 12 hours to avoid symptoms of withdrawal.

Is it addictive?

Regular use of heroin can lead to addiction within two to three weeks. Signs of addiction include:

  • using over a longer period or using more than planned
  • wanting to quit or cut down, or trying unsuccessfully to quit
  • spending a lot of time and effort getting, using and recovering from opioids
  • experiencing cravings
  • failing to fulfil responsibilities at work, school or home as a result of opioid use
  • continuing to use opioids despite the negative social consequences caused by opioid use
  • giving up activities that were once enjoyable
  • using opioids in dangerous situations
  • needing to take more of the drug to get the same effect (tolerance, a sign of physical dependence)
  • feeling ill when opioid use suddenly stops (withdrawal, a sign of physical dependence)
  • showing signs of opioid intoxication (e.g., nodding off, pinpoint pupils).

Not all people who experiment with heroin become addicted. Some people use the drug only on occasion, such as on weekends, without increasing the dose. However, with regular use, people develop tolerance, and they need more of the drug to achieve the same effects. This leads to physical dependence on heroin.

Once someone is dependent, stopping their use can be extremely difficult. People who have used heroin for a long time often report that they no longer experience any pleasure from the drug. They continue to use heroin to avoid the symptoms of withdrawal and to control their craving for the drug.

Is it dangerous?

Heroin is dangerous for a number of reasons. The most immediate danger is overdose. In an opioid overdose, breathing slows down and may stop completely. A person who has overdosed is unconscious and cannot be roused, and has skin that is cold, moist and bluish.

If someone is overdosing, call 911 immediately. While you are waiting for medical help to arrive, you can use your naloxone kit to temporarily reverse the effects of the overdose.

The risk of overdose is increased by:

  • the unknown purity of the drug, which makes it difficult to determine the correct dose
  • injection, because the drug reaches the brain more quickly than by other ways of taking the drug, and because the dose is taken all at once
  • combining heroin with other sedating drugs, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines or methadone.

Additional dangers of heroin use include:

  • Injection: Injection drug use puts a person at high risk of bacterial infections, blood poisoning, skin infections and collapsed veins. Sharing needles increases the risk of becoming infected with, or spreading, HIV and hepatitis B or C.
  • Combining heroin with other drugs, such as cocaine (in “speedballs”): When drugs interact inside the body, the results are unpredictable and sometimes deadly.
  • Addiction: The constant need to obtain heroin and the repeated use of the drug can result in criminal involvement or other high-risk behaviour, breakdown of family life, loss of employment and poor health.
  • Pregnancy: Women who regularly use heroin often miss their periods; some mistakenly think that they are infertile, and become pregnant. Continued use of heroin during pregnancy is very risky for the baby.

What are the long-term effects of using it?

Research using brain scans shows that long-term regular use of heroin results in changes in the way the brain works. While the effect of these changes is not fully understood, this research illustrates that it may take months or years for the brain to return to normal functioning after a person stops using heroin.


Do You Know… Heroin © 2010 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Fundamentals of Addiction: A Practical Guide for Counsellors © 2014 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Straight Talk: Fentanyl © 2017 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health About opioids © 2017 Government of Canada Opioid crisis in Canada © 2018 Government of CanadaWhat is fentanyl? © 2017 Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Where can I find more information?


What Does a Heroin High Feel ?

The Feeling of Getting High on Heroin

Heroin is one of the most deadly, powerful and addictive drugs in the U.S. Many people who experience a heroin high say they became addicted after only one time of using the drug, and it’s a key part of the opioid epidemic that’s currently impacting the U.S.

If you’ve never used heroin, you may wonder what a heroin high is , or if you fear you have a loved one using the drug, you may wonder what the symptoms and effects of a heroin high are. More information about a heroin high is detailed below.

Article at a Glance:  

  • Curiosity is what leads many people to try heroin, and then they quickly get hooked on the drug.  
  • A heroin high starts off with a rush of euphoria and false sense of escape.  
  • However, some people have negative first reactions to trying heroin, or the positive effects are very short-lived.  
  • A heroin high typically lasts 15 to 30 minutes. 
  • After the first few minutes of a heroin high, a person often feels drowsy and sluggish for a few hours. 

What is a Heroin High ?

Unfortunately, people often wonder what a heroin high is and their curiosity is what leads them first to try the drug. There are also people who may have started out doing prescription painkillers, which are also opioids, and then moved to heroin because they found it was cheaper, more available or more potent.

So, what’s a heroin high ? What is it about a heroin high that hooks users so easily?
When someone first uses heroin, the high is often really pleasurable. They first feel a rush of euphoria and a false sense of well-being. It relieves pain and also anxiety and depression.

It provides an escape for people, and heroin tends to be less of a recreational drug for a lot of people and more of something they take as a way to self-medicate.

Heroin binds to opioid receptors in the brain, resulting in what is termed as a “heroin high”. This sensation leads to changes in feelings, thoughts, and sensations.

While most people do feel the initial heroin high is pleasant, some people may have negative experiences, and it can depend on the individual.

The reason people chase the heroin high is because of the euphoria it can bring, and this is particularly true of people who might not otherwise feel a lot of pleasure naturally because they suffer from something depression.

Other feelings often described with regard to a heroin high include a sense of safety, warmth, and well-being, despite what the actual surroundings or environment might be .

Heroin High Symptoms

If you feel you have a loved one who could be abusing it, you may wonder what the heroin high symptoms are.

Some of the heroin high symptoms include slurred speech, flushed skin and a sense of happiness that seems unnatural. Other heroin high symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, itching, eyes that appear sleepy, and pinpoint or small pupils.

Following the euphoric rush of using heroin, people will also then become very sleepy, so they may seem extremely drowsy, or they could nod off randomly. For example, heroin users are often known to fall asleep anywhere and at any time.

Heroin High Effects

The heroin high effects that occur when someone uses this drug can lead to overdose and death relatively easily. First, when someone is experiencing heroin high effects, they’re also experiencing changes in how their brain is functioning. This is why they have changes in their mood and perception.

When heroin enters the brain, it is converted back into morphine, and it then binds to the opioid receptors found throughout the central nervous system. That’s why heroin high effects include euphoria and pleasure.

When heroin binds to the opioid receptors, it leads to a rush of feel-good dopamine that’s much higher than what you could experience from natural pleasure.

The heroin high effects that include the euphoric rush are short-lived, but following that, the person will feel very drowsy and can slip in and consciousness in what is referred to as nodding off.

Heroin High Feeling

The heroin high feeling begins with a person feeling extremely euphoric and having an unnatural sense of pleasure. After that, the heroin high feeling includes drowsiness and nodding off.

It can also include feeling sluggish mentally, and that can outwardly show as slow or slurred speech, as well as confusion.

People who are experiencing the heroin high feeling may also have sensations of warmth, relaxation, and coziness.

The heroin high feeling that users describe as pleasurable may not keep happening after a person builds a tolerance to the drug. The pleasurable high feeling tends to dissipate or disappear altogether as someone develops a tolerance to heroin, and they may just use the drug as a way to avoid withdrawal, rather than feeling a true high.

How Long Do Heroin Highs Last?

So, how long do heroin highs last?

A heroin high occurs because excessive dopamine is released into the brain and it stays there for a period of time, which then creates feelings of euphoria. A heroin high begins relatively quickly after the drug is taken, but the feelings of pleasure and euphoria usually only last a few minutes.

The feelings of drowsiness and sluggishness that follow the initial heroin high can last for several hours.

How long a heroin high lasts can depend on the method of use as well. For example, when someone smokes or injects heroin, the high is more intense but also lasts longer as compared to when it’s snorted. When heroin is snorted, the high may be less intense but may last for anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.

If you or a loved one live with addiction or are using drugs recreationally and want to stop, The Recovery Village® can help.Reach out to one of our representatives today to learn how you can start on your path to recovery.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes.

We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.


Heroin | FRANK

The Feeling of Getting High on Heroin
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A powerful opiate that’s usually sold as a white or brown powder.

Also called:

As it’s cut with different substances, the colour of street heroin in the UK ranges from brownish white to brown.

Heroin is a drug made from morphine, which is extracted from the opium poppy.

Drugs made from opium are called opiates, and are often used as painkillers.

Heroin can have a vinegary smell but can also be odourless. It normally has a bitter taste.

Users heat the heroin on a surface tin foil and then inhale the smoke – this is sometimes called ‘chasing the dragon’.

By injecting it

Heroin can be dissolved in water and then injected, this is very dangerous and can lead to overdose.

By snorting it

Heroin can be snorted.

Heroin is a very strong drug and the first dose of heroin can cause dizziness and vomiting.

People take heroin to feel:

  • happy
  • relaxed
  • euphoric
  • sleepy

Heroin can make people seem happy, relaxed, euphoric and sleepy.

How long the effects last and the drug stays in your system depends on how much you’ve taken, your size and what other drugs you may have also taken.

When smoked, the effects of heroin usually kick in within a few minutes.

After effects:

The after effects of smoking heroin can last for several hours, so it’s important to be careful if you are using any other drugs or alcohol in that time.

Heroin will typically show up in a urine sample for 2 to 3 days.

How long a drug can be detected for depends on how much is taken and which testing kit is used. This is only a general guide.

  • It’s very easy to overdose from heroin, which kills far more people in the UK than any other illegal drug.

  • If you overdose you may begin to feel very sleepy. Your breathing will slow and you can fall into a coma. If your breathing slows too much you could die.

  • If you have been taking heroin regularly you may have built up some tolerance. However, if you then stop taking heroin for just for a few days, your tolerance will rapidly drop and you risk an overdose if you simply take the same dose you previously took.

  • Injecting heroin is very dangerous. It’s easier to overdose from injecting than from other ways of taking the drug. You also risk damaging veins and developing infections and blood clots. Sharing needles and syringes is also very dangerous as you run the risk of catching or spreading a virus, such as HIV, hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

  • If heroin is taken with other drugs, particularly other sedative drugs such as alcohol, then overdose is more ly. Other sedating drugs – such as benzodiazepine tranquillisers or methadone – are also linked with deaths from heroin overdose.

  • There's also a risk of death due to inhaling vomit. Heroin sedates you and stops you from properly coughing. If you vomit you won’t be able to cough and clear your throat. The vomit can then block your breathing.

  • Injecting heroin can do nasty damage to your veins and arteries, and has been known to lead to gangrene (death of body tissue, usually a finger, toe or a limb) and to infections.

Heroin is often cut with other things, for example highly-potent opioids ( fentanyls) which are even more dangerous than heroin itself.

Other substances including sedatives benzodiazepines and barbiturates can also be added to heroin.

It’s common for heroin to be mixed with a variety of other substances, such as sugar, starch, powdered milk, quinine or paracetamol – as these increase the weight and the drug dealer’s profits.

Yes, heroin is highly addictive. Over time, the effects of heroin on the brain can cause cravings and a strong drive to keep on using.

As heroin is used on a regular basis, the body builds up a tolerance, so that users have to start taking more and more.

Doctors have developed a number of effective ways to treat addiction to street heroin. These include using certain safer drugs to replace the street heroin, such as methadone and buprenorphine.

Other drugs that block the effects of heroin (so you can't get a high) are available once you become drug-free. All these drug treatments are intended to supplement the counselling and social support that’s normally needed to help in becoming drug-free and to recover from addiction.

Class: A

  • This is a Class A drug, which means it's illegal to have for yourself, give away or sell.

  • Possession can get you up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

  • Supplying someone else, even your friends, can get you life in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

drink-driving, driving when high is dangerous and illegal. If you’re caught driving under the influence, you may receive a heavy fine, driving ban, or prison sentence.

If the police catch people supplying illegal drugs in a home, club, bar or hostel, they can potentially prosecute the landlord, club owner or any other person concerned in the management of the premises.


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