What Are the Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use?

Today, much of the focus on the opioid epidemic is centered on fentanyl and other prescription medications. However, close to a million Americans don’t primarily use these kinds of opioids. Instead, they use the street drug heroin. Everyone who takes heroin exposes themselves to a wide range of damaging effects. Some of these effects can arise with the short-term use of the drug. However, others only make themselves known with long-term use. Whether you or a loved one is struggling with heroin use, heroin addiction treatment can help you regain your sobriety.

Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use on the Brain


More than two out of every three people who use heroin are addicted to the drug. Addiction is the result of lasting changes in your everyday brain function. These changes alter your normal levels of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Over time, altered neurotransmitter levels can set the stage for:

  • Physical dependence on heroin
  • Psychological, i.e., emotional dependence on the drug
  • A compulsive need to seek out more heroin to use

Together, these three issues characterize an addicted state.

Other Damaging Effects

The long-term side effects of heroin also change your brain in other ways. Crucially, they can alter this essential organ’s actual physical structure. One key alteration occurs in your brain’s white matter. You rely on this form of tissue to support normal nerve communication.

Long-term heroin use can cause your white matter to deteriorate. As a result, you may experience one or more of several kinds of problems. For example, you may lose some of your ability to make sound decisions. You may also lose some of your ability to control your behavior. In addition, damaged white matter can potentially change your reactions to high-stress situations.

Effects of Heroin Addiction on Other Essential Organs

The harmful effects of heroin addiction are not just limited to your brain. Long-term use of the drug can lead to liver disease. It can also damage your kidneys. In addition, chronic heroin use can increase your risks for certain kinds of serious lung disease. Examples of these conditions include both tuberculosis and pneumonia. 

Heroin use can also seriously harm your heart. Problems you may experience include infections in this organ’s valves and/or lining. In addition, chronic heroin use can increase your overall risk for heart failure.

Additional Potential Effects

You may also experience other kinds of harm if you use heroin for extended periods of time. Examples of these possible issues include:

  • Insomnia
  • Chronic constipation
  • Serious nutritional deficiencies
  • Lowered immune function

In addition, long-term heroin use can lead to impotence in men and altered menstruation in women. 

Side Effects of Heroin Related to IV Injection 

Some people who use heroin inject the drug into their veins. In the long run, this method of use can lead to problems such as vein collapse and skin abscesses. It can also lead to the onset of a skin and soft tissue infection called cellulitis. What’s more, IV heroin use seriously increases your risks for HIV/AIDS, as well as hepatitis B and hepatitis C.   

Get More Information on the Long-Term Effects of Heroin Use at Tree House Recovery

Want to know more about the numerous long-term effects of heroin? Contact the addiction professionals at Tree House Recovery. We’ll help you understand the risks that come with prolonged heroin use. We can also show you how effective treatment allows you to avoid these risks.

Are you or your loved one addicted to heroin? Tree House provides the customized, specialized care you need to recover. We can also help you recover from any other form of opioid addiction. To get started, just call us today at 910.812.1728 or complete our online contact form.

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