Can You Smoke Heroin? Understanding the Dangers and Risks

smoking heroin

Heroin is a powerful and addictive illicit opioid drug that more than 1.0 million Americans were addicted to in 2021. The drug is derived from morphine which comes from opium, an opioid substance that is extracted from the seed pod of the opium poppy plant. While heroin has similar effects to morphine, it is far stronger and more dangerous.

Many people have preconceived ideas of those struggling with heroin addiction. For example, many believe that heroin is injected and that all heroin users are intravenous (IV) drug users. Although heron can be injected, and injection is the preferred method by many, it can also be smoked.

Smoking heroin comes with its own set of risks, but using heroin in any way is extremely hazardous. If you or someone you love are using heroin, please contact our team at Moving Mountains Recovery to discuss your various treatment options.

Is Smoking Heroin Safer than Injecting it?

Many drug users will choose to snort or smoke heroin rather than inject it because they believe doing so is a safer alternative. Using heroin in any form can be deadly, especially if the heroin contains fentanyl, an opioid that is lethal in small doses and often found in heroin today. However, smoking can eliminate some of the risks associated with IV heroin use, such as collapsed veins, skin abscesses, and the transmission of bloodborne diseases from sharing needles. Still, that doesn’t mean that smoking heroin is safe.

Side Effects of Smoking Heroin

The effects of smoking heroin take place almost immediately after inhaling the smoke. Initial effects include:

  • A rush of pleasure or wave of euphoria
  • Feelings of warmth
  • Flushed skin
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Heaviness in the arms and legs
  • Itchy skin
  • Dry mouth

Shortly after the initial rush, other effects may appear that last for several hours, such as:

  • Drowsiness
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Slowed breathing
  • Difficulty thinking clearly

Understanding the Dangers and Risks

Smoking heroin is dangerous to both the mind and body. First, it can cause serious health risks, including:

  • Pulmonary issues – Smoking heroin exposes the lungs to harmful toxins and irritants, which can lead to respiratory problems, chronic coughing, emphysema, and lung damage. It may also contribute to the onset of asthma or exacerbate existing asthma symptoms.
  • Infections – Sharing smoking paraphernalia, like straws or foil, increases the risk of spreading diseases or infections that can be transmitted via saliva.
  • Lung inflammation – The act of inhaling heated vapor can irritate the delicate lung tissues, potentially causing inflammation and long-term damage. In severe cases, smoking heroin can worsen lung function in people struggling with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Brain damage – Smoking heroin can result in the degeneration of white matter in the brain. This can lead to issues with memory, mobility, and balance.

Street heroin is often cut with various adulterants, including talcum powder, starch, or other drugs. Smoking heroin with these impurities can have unknown and dangerous health effects.

Smoking heroin can also increase the risk of an overdose. It is difficult to regulate exactly how much heroin you are using when you smoke it. As a result, it is easy to unintentionally take more than intended, leading to an overdose.

As far as mental health goes, heroin use of any kind can lead to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and paranoia.

Signs of Heroin Overdose

Heroin use of any kind may result in an overdose. Symptoms of heroin overdose include:

  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Blue or purple lips and nails
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Weak pulse or low blood pressure
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Confusion or delirium
  • Unconsciousness or unresponsiveness
  • Inability to wake up or stay awake
  • Muscle spasms or convulsions
  • Vomiting
  • Choking sounds or gurgling noises

If you suspect an overdose, call 911 immediately and administer naloxone (Narcan), if available. Stay with the person until help arrives.

Signs Someone You Love is Smoking Heroin

If you suspect a loved one is using heroin, it’s important to tackle the issue promptly. As a result, it is helpful to understand the signs of smoking heroin. People who smoke heroin may possess certain drug paraphernalia, including:

  • Lighters
  • Glass pipes
  • Aluminum foil
  • Aluminum foil with residue on it
  • Straws
  • Small steel or metal tubes

In addition to paraphernalia, you may also notice behavioral changes in your loved one. Behavioral signs of heroin abuse and addiction include:

  • Neglecting one’s responsibilities
  • Multiple failed attempts at stopping heroin use
  • Spending excess time and money using and buying heroin
  • Wanting to quit but feeling unable to do so
  • Continuing to use heroin despite negative consequences
  • Regularly falling asleep or “nodding off” at inappropriate times
  • Lying to loved ones
  • Mood swings or erratic behaviors

Heroin addiction can be deadly for anyone suffering from it, so it’s essential to explore your treatment options and get help as soon as possible.

Discuss Your Heroin Rehab Options With an Addiction Specialist Today

At Moving Mountains Recovery, we take an individualized approach to treatment. After assessing our clients’ needs, we create individually tailored treatment plans just for them. Regardless of how severe your addiction is or your situation, we can help you get your life back on track. To learn about your heroin rehab options or to find help for a loved one, please contact us today.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): What is the scope of heroin use in the United States? Retrieved September 2023 from
  2. JAMA Network: Reported Heroin Use, Use Disorder, and Injection Among Adults in the United States, 2002-2018, Retrieved September 2023 from
  3. National Library of Medicine: The Association between Chronic Heroin Smoking and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Retrieved September 2023 from
  4. National Library of Medicine: Heroin overdose: Research and evidence-based intervention, Retrieved September 2023 from
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