The Effects of Heroin

What is Heroin?

Heroin is a synthetic derivative of naturally-occurring morphine.  Morphine is extracted from the milky white latex (opium) that seeps from incisions made in the ripe poppy seed head.  As it dries, it hardens and turns dark in colour.  Morphine, and a number of other alkaloids (codeine, thebaine, noscapine, papaverine) are extracted from the harvested opium.

Both heroin and morphine are Class A drugs controlled under the provisions of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Both are potent pain-killing drugs (narcotics) prescribed for the treatment of severe pain.

Illicit heroin may vary in colour from white to dark brown due to impurities, or may appear as a black tar-like material.

Effects of Heroin

Heroin is a potent central nervous system depressant that is subject to abuse either by injection, smoking or the inhalation of the fumes produced when it is heated (‘chasing the dragon’).

Following an intravenous dose of heroin, it enters the brain rapidly and binds to opioid receptors.   The user generally feels an intense surge of euphoria (‘rush’) accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth, and heavy extremities. The user then alternates between a wakeful and drowsy state (‘on the nod’).

Increasing dosage may result in complete unconsciousness and severe respiratory depression and potentially coma and death.

Heroin has a high physical and psychological dependence. With regular use, tolerance develops early to the duration and intensity of euphoria and analgesia such that more of the drug is required (and taken) to produce the desired effects.

Heroin in the Workplace

An employee using heroin may experience apathy, lethargy, drowsiness and an inability to concentrate, therefore will have difficulty sustaining and shifting attention to meet the demands of changes in the environment.

This is especially critical in industries such as construction, transport and manufacturing were full attention is needed.  A slight lapse in concentration may cause a severe accident and can be detrimental to the business.

Randox Testing Services can offer advice on the best means of abstinence monitoring of an individual on an opiate maintenance programme.

Randox Testing Services

Randox Testing Services is a specialist in the drug and alcohol testing industry. We aim to educate and inform companies and customers about the dangers of drugs and alcohol in the workplace.

Contact us today at or call 0 161 741 2760 to speak to one of our experts.