Smoking weed is one thing, but smack is in a different league (literally - it’s a Class A drug). When you start to get into the real shit, the risk of becoming addicted increases significantly. It’s always important to be careful when taking drugs, but even more so with the harder stuff. We’re here to talk you through the effects of heroin and give you the info that your mum won’t tell you.

A young, blonde woman is at a desktop. She is wearing a mask. She is looking up the effects of heroin. This is a wide-angle image.

What is the heroin drug

It’s a painkilling drug made from morphine, which is derived from the opium poppy (a.k.a., heroin poppy plants). Synthetic heroin substitutes such as methadone are sometimes used as a softer alternative. The real stuff is usually sold in the form of a brownish-white powder which users snort or prepare for injection. There is also a form of the drug known as ‘black tar’ which is a less pure version but just as strong.You might look at that list and wonder, ‘can you smoke heroin?’ The answer is yes, but be careful – when you’re smoking china white it might take a while for the high to hit. 

What are heroin effects? 

  • In small doses, the heroin drug gives users a profound sense of warmth and wellbeing.
  • Some first time users may experience nausea or vomiting, especially after injecting.
  • Larger doses can lead to drowsiness and potential drug addiction.

What are the risks of taking it? 

  • It’s a highly addictive drug and many users may find their habit spirals out of control.
  • Tolerance often develops, meaning the user needs more and more heroin to get the same effect. The more tolerance you have, the more intense withdrawal symptoms will be.
  • Many users who start out smoking heroin turn to injecting, a.k.a., shooting heroin for a more intense hit. You should be aware that this could easily lead to a heroin overdose, so proceed with EXTREME caution.
  • Sharing needles when injecting leaves users at risk of developing a dangerous health problem like HIV, hepatitis and gangrene. As a rule, never share needles. Sharing equipment just isn’t worth the risk. Clean works are available free from local needle exchanges and some pharmacies.
  • Chronic heroin users trying to kick the habit may experience a period of diarrhoea, insomnia, vomiting, hot and cold sweats, and cramps. To get support for H addiction, visit the Amy Winehouse Foundation’s website
  • While many people give up heroin successfully, mentally it can take years to be free.

For more info on withdrawal, click here.

Slang names 

People rarely call it by its full name. Some nicknames (for it’s close friends only of course) include smack, skag, H, horse, junk, brown, gear and China white. Other terms that you might need to know are: 

Chasing the dragon: to smoke it.

Cold turkey: to abruptly go into withdrawal.

Poor man’s speedball: a mixture of heroin and amphetamines.

Speedball: a mixture of heroin and cocaine.

Ten bag/ ten spot: a bag of H


What is it? If you’re coming off H, you may be prescribed methadone to help with your withdrawal as it’s less addictive.

Reducing the risk: Stick closely to supervision instructions to avoid side-effects and other risks. For more details, consult your dispensing pharmacist or local prescribing service. Prescription methadone users in possession of a UK driving license are also required to disclose their use to the DVLA and be evaluated.

H and the law

Heroin, morphine, opium, methadone, dipapanone, and pethidine are all Class A drugs, so possession could lead to up to seven years in prison. On the other hand, Codeine and dihydrocodeine (DF 118) are Class B drugs that become Class A when injected. 

For more information about what could happen to you if you’re caught with smack, read our article here

Next Steps


drugs a-z| heroin

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 27-Aug-2021