What Does It Feel Like to Get High on Heroin?


A heroin overdose can be reversed if treated quickly. Call 911 if you think you or someone else has overdosed on heroin, and ask for an ambulance. Stay awake, and tell the paramedic that heroin has been taken.

Using heroin has always carried the risk of death by overdose. Recently, the risk of dying from an overdose of heroin has risen greatly, due to the cutting of heroin and other street drugs with fentanyl, another opiate which is 50 to 100 times stronger.

Although some people are able to manage controlled heroin use, for those with long-standing emotional problems, a history of trauma, chronic pain, or a disadvantaged lifestyle, the risk of addiction to heroin is very high. If this describes your situation, and you are experiencing peer pressure to try heroin, you would be wiser to avoid trying heroin, and instead, to find connections to other people, perhaps through shared interests, reach out for support through community agencies, and to look for opportunities to move somewhere else. Getting therapy can help with your problems, even before you develop an addiction, and avoiding drugs can lead to being able to build a better life for yourself, which is very difficult for people who are addicted to heroin.

The Heroin High

Often people who have experimented with other drugs become curious and wonder, what does the heroin high feel like? The heroin high, or heroin intoxication, is often the reason given by heroin users for taking this dangerous drug.

Some people like to experiment with the different ways that drugs make them feel, and don't get particularly attached to the feelings they get from a drug.

But for many users, heroin use is more about avoiding or numbing pain than about feeling good. The pleasant effects of the heroin high feel important to people who do not feel good in the first place, because heroin can give them a brief escape from pain, depression, and anxiety.

For people who become addicted, this is often really why they choose to take the drug—even though the rebound effect actually worsens unpleasant feelings. Compared to other drugs, such as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and meth, heroin is taken less for recreational and social reasons and more for self-medication.

The heroin high creates changes to thoughts, feelings, and sensations, some of which are caused by the effects of the drug itself on the brain and nervous system, and some of which depend on the personal background and expectations of the person taking the drug. For this reason, one person might find the effects of heroin to be awful, while another might feel relief and pleasure from the same effects.


Often when heroin users seek a high, they want to feel euphoria, a pleasurable sensation caused by changes in the brain. For people who rarely feel pleasure, either because they suffer from depression or anxiety, or because they live in unhappy circumstances, such as poverty, survival sex work, or the aftermath of an abusive childhood, a heroin high may be the only time they feel pleasure. For people with more balanced lives, euphoria can happen in response to pleasurable day-to-day or special events, and they don't need to take a drug to feel good.

False Feelings

People who use heroin describe sensations of warmth and safety while they are high on heroin, even though in reality, they may be anything but safe or warm. This is why heroin can be so appealing to people living in unsafe surroundings, such as homeless people. On a cold night, sleeping on the streets, a hit of heroin can make it possible to relax and get some rest, yet the risks of developing hypothermia or pneumonia are still there.

On lower doses, people on heroin can feel calmer, less tense and lonely, and more accepting of those around them. This can be appealing to sex workers, who can find it easier to go through with sexual contact with an unappealing stranger while under the influence of heroin.

People living in deprived communities where criminal involvement is the norm can find it easier to get along with their peers when on heroin, which helps reduce the kind of anxiety that is natural to experience in these settings.

On higher doses, people often disconnect from those around them, experiencing a kind of floating, dream-like state. Again, for someone with a high level of anxiety, depression, or alienation from the people and the world around them, this can be a relief. For other, more grounded people, it can be unpleasant and disorienting, and they may not want to repeat the experience.

Pain Relief

The first few times heroin is used, it is very effective in reducing or eliminating physical and emotional pain. This can make it particularly appealing to people who have chronic pain, or those who engage in painful activities, such as sex work—a woman who has intercourse with 20 different men in a night, some of whom may be physically abusive, might find this experience more bearable and less painful on heroin.

Dangerous Effects of Heroin

Many people find heroin very unpleasant the first time they take it and never take it again. The effects that heroin has on the nervous system can cause immediate vomiting, which, combined with suppressing breathing and the cough reflex, increases the risk of choking. It also causes constipation. Heroin tends to reduce sex drive and the ability to have an orgasm, although, on a physical level, it can increase sexual arousal (i.e., cause a man to have an erection or a woman to produce vaginal lubrication, again making sex work more manageable).

Heroin carries a high risk of overdose, and the risk does not decrease with experience, as tolerance develops quickly, and changes in body weight, the route of administration, periods of abstinence or reduced use, and even being familiar with the place where the drug is taken affect how much the body can cope with.

Fillers and even other drugs are mixed with what is sold as heroin. The amount of heroin in the drug purchased illegally is unpredictable, so it is impossible for heroin users to accurately predict whether the dose will be strong or weak. Some heroin users are willing to play Russian roulette with their heroin because they feel so powerless and unhappy that the risk of death is not as concerning to them as it is to people who are living in more manageable circumstances.

Harm Reduction

The harms associated with heroin use are potentially deadly. If you inject heroin, find a needle exchange and use clean works every time. Do not share needles, even if you feel you know the other person well. Always use a condom when you have sex.

There is a lot of help available to people who use heroin, and treatments exist and others are being developed that lessen the distress of heroin addiction and heroin withdrawal. Talk to your doctor to find out what is available to you.


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