What You Don't Know

Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others. Opioids are created to interact with the opioid receptors in the brain. Because of this interaction, opioids are highly addictive and can lead to dependence if abused or misused. Fortunately, medications (like methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone) exist to treat opioid use disorders. There is even a way to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose with a medication called Narcan. 

One of the most dangerous opioids is heroin. Heroin is an illegal, high-risk substance extracted from the poppy plant before it is turned into morphine. While opioids are known for having negative side effects and high addiction rates it is still a commonly abused drug in the United States. Heroin may be sold as a powder, solid chunks, or as a sticky substance (sometimes called tar). They may be smoked, snorted, or injected directly into the muscle or veins. 

Heroin is an addictive substance that quickly enters the blood system and affects the brain. While many users often report feeling a "high" after using opioids, the initial high is only felt for about ten to twenty minutes. The side effects can be felt for many hours after use. 

Immediate Side Effects


Heroin use comes with a rush in the beginning that only lasts a few moments.

After the rush is over, many users report feeling side effects such as:



Nausea or vomiting

Itchy skin

Sensitivity to light

Slowed breathing and heart rate

Dry mouth


Long-Term Side Effects


Those who continue to use heroin over a longer period of time suffer from dependency.

Continued use of opioids may lead to side effects such as:

Poor dental health

Severe constipation

Weakness and sedation

Lowered appetite and malnutrition


Lowered immune system

Collapsed veins or nasal tissue damage

Liver and kidney diseases

Risk Factors

Addiction to opioids is not caused by one single factor. There may be many influences in a person's life which would cause them to turn to substance use. The most common factors for an opioid-related substance use disorder are:

Genetics - People with an immediate family member who struggles with a substance use disorder are more likely to become dependent on a drugs or alcohol.
Physical  - Since opioids affect the pleasure neurotransmitters in the brain those who lack these transmitters are more likely to become addicted.
Environmental -  Those who start abusing substances at an early age have a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder.

Are you or someone you love dealing with an addiction?

You are not fighting alone.

Norwich Unhooked partners with multiple local doctors, counselors, and hospitals in Norwich to help aid the community with substance abuse disorder treatment and prevention measures.