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Frequently Asked Questions

Heroin

Heroin is a depressant, which means it suppresses the activity of the central nervous system. Depressants affect the central nervous system by slowing down the activity of certain chemicals in the brain. This slows down the body, including breathing and heart rate.

Heroin can also be known as hammer, H, smack, horse, white or beige, amongst other street names.

Heroin is usually injected, but can also be smoked or snorted. The effects of heroin usually last from 2 to 4 hours.

The effects of heroin can change from person to person as with any drug. This is because the effects of drugs change with person to person depending on the persons characteristics (such as physical size, gender, mood, diet, fitness, age, expectations and health), the drug itself (such as the amount used and its purity), and how it is taken and the environment a person is in when using the drug. 

The short term effects of heroin generally include:

  • Pain relief
  • Shallow breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Feeling of wellbeing
  • Sleepiness
  • Loss of balance and reduced coordination. 

The short term effects of high doses of heroin generally include:

  • Breathing becomes even more depressed
  • Pupils narrow to pinpoints
  • Skin is cold to touch
  • The central nervous system can be depressed to the point where heart rate and breathing stop and possibly lead to death.

 The long term effects of heroin generally include:

  • Dependence
  • Loss of appetite
  • Chronic constipation
  • Heart, chest and bronchial problems
  • Women often experience irregular menstruation and are susceptible to infertility
  • Men can experience impotence.

Heroin use can lead to dependency. Tolerance and dependence develop very quickly with heroin because of the short acting nature of the drug.

Heroin can be detected in urine for up to 1-2 days after use, and in blood from 30 minutes to 3 hours after use.

It is important to note that the detection of drugs and their metabolites in any biological sample (saliva, urine and blood) can change depending on the individual person and their biological factors and most suggested time frames are based on scientific studies, but individual results may vary.

There is no safe level of heroin use. Because heroin is harmful, it is against the law for people in Western Australia to use, possess, manufacture or sell/ supply heroin.

A person convicted of a drug offence will receive a criminal record and this can lead to difficulties in getting a job, credit or visas for overseas travel.

Using heroin can also impact on your life in many ways. For example, the cost of purchasing heroin can lead to financial problems and drug use can lead to social and emotional problems that affect relationships with family and friends.

We would recommend that you contact WA Police for any other questions on heroin and the law (www.police.wa.gov.au).

Heroin can cross a mother’s placenta and cause her unborn baby to become dependent on the drug. Babies born to heroin-dependent mothers often have withdrawal symptoms like those of adults which may last for weeks or months. They can suffer withdrawal symptoms after they are born, and often require special care in hospital.

Babies born to women using heroin are usually underdeveloped and suffer from breathing problems and infections in the first few weeks of life.

Pregnant women who are dependent on heroin have a higher risk of spontaneous abortions, breech deliveries, premature birth (requiring intensive care) and still birth. Research indicates an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) among babies born to heroin-dependent mothers.

It is recommended that women discuss their drug use with their doctor (or other health professional) if they are planning a pregnancy, currently pregnant or breastfeeding, including prescribed and over-the-counter medicines.

Short-term effects of high doses of heroin include:

- Breathing becomes even more depressed

- Pupils narrow to pinpoints

- Skin is cold to touch

- The central nervous system can be depressed to the point where heart rate and breathing stop and possibly lead to death.

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