Heroin Fact Sheet


  Heroin Fact Sheet

Coast to Forest Resources

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What is Heroin?

Heroin is a depressant drug that is derived from the opium plant: poppy.1

In 2020, more than 13,000 people died of a drug overdose involving heroin in the U.S.2

Common Names

Dope, smack, H, Junk, China White, and Hero.3


  • Boiled into a liquid, then injected through a needle.1
  • Snorted/sniffed, often mixed with other drugs, such as cocaine.1

How Heroin Works

Heroin binds to the brain’s opioid receptors, mimicking the brains natural opioids, such as endorphins.4

Short Term Health Effects

  • Shallow breathing1
  • Heavy arms and legs1
  • Fatigue1
  • Severe itching1
  • Nausea and vomiting1
  • Clouded mental functioning1
  • Unconsciousness1

Long Term Health Effects

  • Collapsed veins (if injected)1
  • Insomnia1
  • Damaged tissue of the nose (if snorted)1
  • Infection of the heart lining and valves1
  • Abscesses1
  • Constipation and stomach cramping1
  • Liver and kidney disease1
  • Mental health conditions1


  • Fast pulse and breaths4
  • Elevated body temperature4
  • Insomnia4
  • Heightened reflexes4
  • Muscle spasms, cramps, and pain4
  • Bone pain4
  • Nausea4
  • Vomiting4
  • Diarrhea4

Withdrawal can occur as soon as hours after the last dose. Withdrawals are uncomfortable and distressing, potentially driving one to use the drug again.4


An overdose can be intentional or unintentional and is when a large enough amount of heroin is consumed to have serious adverse health effects, life threatening symptoms or even death.5

Symptoms of Heroin Overdose
  • Uncontrolled vomiting5
  • Lethargy5
  • Limp body5
  • Loss of consciousness5
  • Inability to wake up5
  • Choking and gurgling5
  • Slow pulse and shallow breathing5

Overdose is more likely when heroin is used in combination with other drugs such as other opioids, sleeping pills, other depressants, alcohol and methadone.6

In the event of an overdose, naloxone can be administered. However, due to the potency of fentanyl, multiple doses of naloxone may be needed.2

Addiction Treatment

Therapeutic interventions: Community-based Recovery Groups, Therapeutic Communities, and individual counseling.

Medicinal: Methadone, Buprenorphine, and Naltrexone.7


  1. Heroin Facts 1
  2. Drug Overdose Death Rates
  3. Common Names
  4. How it works
  5. Overdose
  6. Mixing heroin
  7. Medicinal therapy


This fact sheet was developed by the Oregon State University Coast to Forest team, a collaboration of the College of Health, OSU Center for Health Innovation and OSU Extension Service Family & Community Health program. We would like to thank the H 310 Health Field Experience students for their contributions.

For more information and to explore local resources, check out the Coast to Forest County-Specific Resource Guides.