Heroin and mental health

Heroin is a drug made from the opium poppy. It is addictive, and addicts can find it very hard to kick the habit.

Heroin is linked to mental health problems, such as depression, and social issues such as money, work and legal problems. Mixing heroin with other drugs can be very dangerous.

Heroin is usually injected into a vein, but it can also be smoked or snorted. It’s also known as horse, smack, hammer, H, dope and junk.

Effects of heroin use

Heroin is a depressant drugs, which means it slows down the messages to and from your brain. It can make you feel content, drowsy and relaxed. It also dulls physical and psychological pain. It can also make you stop breathing. Learn more about the physical effects of heroin.

People who use heroin regularly are more likely to develop mental health problems such as:

  • psychological dependence, where their thoughts and emotions revolve around the drug
  • confusion
  • mood swings, depression and anxiety

People who use heroin regularly might also:

  • neglect their health
  • have financial problems because they spend a lot of money buying drugs
  • have relationship problems
  • find it hard to do their work properly
  • have an overdose, either accidentally or deliberately
  • pick up infections such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV
  • suffer physical illnesses
  • run into legal problems
  • Kicking the habit
  • Kicking a heroin habit can be tough. Withdrawal symptoms start between 6 and 24 hours after the last dose and are worst after 2 to 4 days. They usually last for about a week and include cravings, depression, diarrhoea, increased heart rate, vomiting and loss of appetite.
  • Some mental health symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and continued cravings, can last for years after the last dose.

There are many different ways to treat heroin addiction. Counselling and support groups are common approaches.

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