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Street terms for heroin:

smack, thunder, hell dust, big H, nose drops.

What Does Heroin Look Like?

  • Pure heroin is a white powder with a bitter taste.
  • Most illicit heroin varies in color from white to dark brown.
  • “Black tar” heroin is sticky like roofing tar or hard like coal, and its color may vary from dark brown to black.

How Is Heroin Used?

  • Injecting
  • Smoking
  • Snorting

Who Uses Heroin and What Are the Risks?

Heroin use has increased across the US among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels. Some of the greatest increases occurred in demographic groups with historically low rates of heroin use: women, the privately insured, and people with higher incomes.

Heroin-related overdose deaths in the U.S. have increased by nearly 300 percent in recent years, and a new report from the federal government shows people who use the drug are not confined to a particular income level or age group.

From 2002 to 2013, heroin overdose deaths in the country increased by 286 percent, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration. Most deaths involve the use of multiple drugs, and more than 8,200 people died of a heroin-related overdose in 2013 alone. The annual average rate of past-year heroin use in the U.S. also increased by more than 62 percent in roughly the past decade.

A heroin overdose can cause slow and shallow breathing, coma and death. Using alcohol or other drugs with heroin is especially dangerous, as it can increase the risk of an overdose.

How Does Heroin Get to the United States?

  • The U.S. heroin market is supplied entirely from foreign sources of opium.
  • Production occurs in South America, Mexico, Southeast Asia, and Southwest Asia.


What Are the Effects of Heroin Use?

  • One of the most significant effects of heroin use is addiction. Once tolerance happens, higher doses become necessary to achieve the desired effect, and physical dependence develops.
  • Chronic use may cause collapsed veins, infection of heart lining and valves, abscesses, liver disease, pulmonary complications, and various types of pneumonia.
  • May cause depression of central nervous system, cloudy mental functioning, and slowed breathing to the point of respiratory failure.
  • Heroin overdose may cause slow and shallow breathing, convulsions, coma, and possibly death.
  • Users put themselves at risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis B and C, and other viruses.