Across the country, heroin use has increased among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels. Approximately 80 percent of new heroin users are coming to heroin after abusing prescription opioids.

What is heroin?

Heroin is an opiate (narcotic) drug processed from morphine and extracted from certain poppy plants. Heroin comes in a white or brownish powder, or a black sticky substance known as “black tar heroin.” It is often “cut” with other drugs or substances. Heroin users are often unaware of how much actual heroin is being used. Frequently, heroin is contaminated with the fentanyl family of synthetic opioids.

Shocking Facts

  • The average heroin addict spends $80 - $200 per day to maintain his or her addiction
  • It can take just three days of regular heroin use to become addicted
  • Heroin use more than doubled among young adults ages 18–25 in the past decade
  • Heroin has varying purities which makes it much easier to overdose
  • People inject, sniff, snort or smoke heroin. Some people mix heroin with crack cocaine, a practice called speedballing

Nearly 80% of heroin users reported misusing prescription opioids prior to heroin.

How does it affect the body?

  • Highly addictive
  • Initial surge of euphoria or “rush,” followed by a twilight state of sleep and wakefulness
  • Physical symptoms of use include: drowsiness, respiratory depression, constricted pupils, nausea, a warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth, and heavy extremities
  • Overdose symptoms: slow and shallow breathing, blue lips and fingernails, clammy skin, convulsions, coma and possible death

Supply and Demand

While efforts to reduce the availability of prescription opioid analgesics have begun to show success, the supply of heroin has been increasing. It is not clear whether the increased availability of heroin is causing the upsurge in use or if the increased accessibility of heroin has been caused by increased demand.

According to the DEA, Heroin usually costs between $5-10 but one OxyContin tablet can cost $80 on the street.

Many people who transition from abusing opioids to heroin cite that heroin is cheaper, more available and provides a better high.

If you or someone you know has a problem with heroin, help is available. You can start by educating yourself about the problem and treatment. Talk to your doctor; make an appointment and ask for help.

Additional information