Table of Contents
Guide to Heroin Addiction


The Basics

The Primary Dangers of Heroin

  • Addictiveness: Heroin is considered one of the most addictive drugs in the world. In a 2007 comprehensive study of illicit drugs, heroin yielded the highest score for addictiveness.
  • Risk of Overdose: Heroin overdoses have increased over the past decade with a sharp spike from 2012 to 2015. When heroin users take a high dosage, their breathing slows drastically, which causes hypoxia. Hypoxia can produce permanent brain damage, put the user into a coma, or cause death.
  • Long-Term Bodily Damage: Recent data shows that the majority of heroin users inject the drug, which has some possible long-term consequences. Infectious diseases like Hepatitis and HIV spread when multiple people share syringes. Also, the additives cut into heroin can cause permanent damage to the liver, kidney, and blood vessels.
  • Legal Risks: The legal ramifications of possessing heroin and for selling it are significantly higher than many other drugs because the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies heroin as a “Schedule I” drug.

Heroin Background Information

Derived From Opium poppy plants
Ways Used Injected, Snorted, Sniffed, or Smoked
Scientific Name Diacetylmorphine (among others)
Slang/Street Names for Heroin H, hell dust, smack, black eagle, black tar, black pearl, brown crystal, brown tape, brown sugar, brown rhine, dirt, diesel, golden girl, orange line, red rock, red eagle, red chicken, salt, spider blue, white stuff, white nurse, white junk, brain damage, hard stuff, hard candy, hell dust, holy terror, nice and easy, joy flakes, rush hour, sweet dreams, aunt hazel, big harry, dr. feelgood, helen, hazel, henry, hombre, nickel deck, big H, capital H, galloping horse, h caps, hero, horse, antifreeze, skag, tootsie roll, little boy, foil
Slang/Street Names for Heroin Mixtures
  • Heroin and Cocaine: speedball, smoking gun, back to back, goofball, H and C, he-she, dynamite, bipping or crisscrossing (snorting both), chasing the dragon, dragon rock, moonrock, scramble, or eightball (heroin with crack cocaine), and tar (smoking both)
  • Heroin and Xanax: bars
  • Heroin and Marijuana: atom bomb or a-bomb, canade, dust
  • Black tar heroin with Diphenhydramine: cheese
  • Heroin and Meth: screwball, methball (injected),
  • Heroin and LSD: neon nod
  • Heroin and Ecstasy: H bomb, on the ball
Length of Time in Body/Bloodstream Typically two days, longer with regular usage
Punitive Legal Measures Federal law states that the first offense of heroin possession may be sentenced to one year in prison and fined $5,000, and a second possession charge doubles both time spent and fines. If caught selling or manufacturing, the typical charge is 10-15 years in prison and between $25,000-$100,000 fine.
DEA Drug Rating Schedule 1

White heroin is the purest form and also the most potent

Like any other drug, various processing methods yield different forms of the same drug with varying potencies. Heroin has three primary forms that are ingested in distinct ways, as described below.

Forms of Heroin
  Definition Methods of Use Potency
Brown Also known as diamorphine base, brown heroin comes from the first stage of purifying diacetylmorphine. Brown heroin is typically smoked because it burns at a lower temperature than other forms. Sometimes it is injected, but it needs an acid to become soluble in water. Brown heroin falls between the other two forms, having a medium potency.
White Also known as diamorphine hydrochloride, white heroin is the purest form but has a bitter taste and is the most complicated form to produce. White, highly pure heroin can be snorted or injected. It has a higher burning temperature, so it is typically not smoked. White heroin is the purest and therefore has the strongest potency of the forms.
Black Tar “Black tar” heroin is sticky like roofing tar or hard like coal. The dark color results from crude processing methods that leave behind impurities, making it the cheapest form to create. Black Tar is usually dissolved, diluted, and injected into veins, muscles, or under the skin. Due to the crude processing, black tar heroin has the least amount of heroin in it.

Heroin Usage

Global Heroin Use

An estimated 0.4% of the world’s population (17 million people) have tried heroin

According to the U.N.’s 2016 World Drug Report, heroin has fewer total users than most other illegal drugs, but it has one of the highest death rates. While Heroin usage is on the rise in the U.S. (unlike every other area), the percentage of Americans that use the substance is still lower than most other areas of the world.

Heroin Usage Demographics in the U.S.

The U.S. has over half a million regular heroin users, many of whom are unemployed

According to the UNODC 2016 study, heroin has the highest unemployment rate for illicit drugs at 35%. The second highest unemployment rate is among crack cocaine users at 26%. According to a RAND study, the high level of unemployment is further complicated by the cost of heroin. Regular users spend at least $17,500 on heroin per year, compared to the second most expensive addiction, cocaine, at $10,600.

According to 2014 data, 4.8 million Americans had tried heroin, and those numbers are rising

SAMHSA’s 2014 NSDUH study reported that over 4.8 million Americans had tried heroin at some point in their lives, and the average age of first use was 28 years old. They also estimate that over 200,000 people used heroin for the first time in 2014.

Opioid painkiller addicts are 40 times more likely to use heroin than the average person

Heroin use has been steadily rising since 2007. Some argue that the rising figures are due to a surge of prescription drug addictions. Heroin is cheaper and more easily accessible, so it’s a recourse for people who can no longer get prescription drugs.

According to a 2013 study by NSDUH and SAMHSA, 4% of people who misused prescription opioids used heroin within five years, but when looking at heroin users as a whole, nearly 80% reported first overusing prescription opioid painkillers. This data shows that most people who abuse prescription painkillers do not transition to heroin, but most heroin users were first addicted to prescription opioid painkillers.

Disclaimer: The information contained on is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be relied upon for any medical or diagnostic purpose. The information on should not be used for the treatment of any condition or symptom. None of the material or information provided on is not intended to serve as a substitute for consultation, diagnosis, and/or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.