Can You Smoke Heroin? Effects And Risks

The illicit drug heroin may be smoked with a glass pipe or heated on a sheet of foil in a process called “freebasing”. Smoking heroin poses a host of short-term and long-term side effects and risks to your health.

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Dr. Langdon M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Kimberly Langdon M.D.


Heroin is a highly addictive opiate drug that may be consumed in many different ways, including smoking, snorting, “plugging” (rectal insertion), and injecting the drug.

When smoked, the substance is inhaled into the lungs and quickly produces intense feelings of well-being, painlessness, and euphoria.

Find out about different methods of heroin abuse.

How Is Heroin Smoked?

People who smoke heroin primarily do so using a hard or tar-like form of the drug called black tar heroin. Black tar heroin is a less-refined and less-pure version of the substance.

The strong euphoric effects of heroin are almost immediately experienced when smoked, making it one of the most common methods of ingesting the drug.

Smoking Heroin In A Glass Pipe

When smoked in a pipe, a rock of black tar heroin is placed at one end of the glass and ignited with a lighter or torch. The resulting vapor is then inhaled at the other end and rapidly absorbed in the lungs.

“Freebasing” Heroin On Aluminum Foil

Heroin can also be placed on a small sheet of aluminum foil and heated from below. The resulting vapors may be inhaled through a small tube in a process known as “chasing the dragon”.

Paraphernalia Associated With Smoking Heroin

If you suspect that a family member or friend is smoking heroin, you may be wondering what kinds of paraphernalia are associated with the drug.

Common paraphernalia used for smoking heroin:

  • small, burned sheets of aluminum foil
  • pen tubes, rolled-up dollar bills, or metal straws
  • lighters, matches, and candles
  • cigarette rolling papers

Other evidence of heroin use may include increased irritability, secrecy, and delinquent behavior such as stealing and other issues with law enforcement.

Learn about common heroin paraphernalia.

Effects Of Smoking Heroin

Using heroin in any form is extremely dangerous and may lead to serious health problems, including overdose death.

Short-Term Effects Of Smoking Heroin

The euphoric effects of heroin begin minutes after smoking it. People describe the sensation as a warm rush of pleasurable feelings replaced by a deep calm that lasts for hours at a time.

Some of the short-term physical effects of smoking heroin include intense itching, dry mouth, flushed skin, nausea, drowsiness, and confusion.

Long-Term Effects Of Smoking Heroin

After a prolonged period of time smoking heroin, people may develop addiction or physical dependence on the drug.

Some of the most common long-term effects include:

  • insomnia
  • chronic constipation
  • sexual impotence
  • chronic cough
  • intense cravings
  • damage to blood vessels
  • abscesses
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • the onset of mental health issues such as depression

If a person uses too much heroin at once or ingests a form of the drug laced with powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, they can experience a heroin overdose.

Signs and symptoms of an overdose include low blood pressure, blue lips or fingertips, weak pulse, non-responsiveness or confusion, seizures, and coma.

Read more about the effects of heroin.

Other Methods Of Heroin Abuse

Heroin is addictive and potentially dangerous regardless of the route of administration. The other common ways to abuse heroin include snorting and injecting the drug intravenously.

Injecting “Shooting” Heroin

Injecting heroin involves dissolving or diluting black tar heroin in a spoon and injecting the resulting liquid into a vein with a needle.

Snorting Heroin

Snorting heroin may be accomplished by using the white or brown powdered version of the drug. The powder is arranged into lines and snorted through a rolled-up dollar bill or tube.

Addiction Treatment Options For Heroin Use

Seeking evidence-based treatment services for heroin use will help you or your loved one achieve lasting recovery.

Substance abuse treatment options may include:

It’s important to get help from qualified healthcare professionals for heroin addiction to avoid potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms and reduce your risk of overdose.

Find Heroin Addiction Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center

Call Bedrock Recovery Center today for more information about our inpatient treatment programs for substance use disorder. Our team can help get you on the path to a heroin-free life.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — Heroin
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Heroin DrugFacts
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — MAT Medications, Counseling, and Related Conditions
  4. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) — Heroin Drug Fact Sheet

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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