There’s no way around it – heroin is a deadly drug.

For first-time users and seasoned users alike, use of heroin will often end in overdose or related death if treatment is not sought. Though there are some things that users can do to mitigate certain risks (e.g., avoid sharing needles or use with a partner), for the majority of potential dangers that come with heroin use, there is no protection except abstinence.


Because heroin is a black market street drug and illegal for recreational use throughout the world, there is no governing body standing by to ensure quality standards in its production or distribution. Often, the other chemicals and substances used to cut heroin to make it more lucrative to its manufacturers and sellers are just as harmful. These contaminants can clog blood vessels, thus cutting off the supply to major organs like the kidneys, liver, lungs and brain, which in turn can cause dysfunction or irreversible damage to the same.

A report in the journal Forensic Science International details just a few of the different adulterants found in different heroin seizures over a 12-year period. They found that purity in wholesale seizures was only slightly higher than retail seizures, indicating that multiple parties along the heroin shipment route are cutting the drug with a wide range of chemicals in order to increase their money-making power. Rates of purity were 45 percent and 35 percent, respectively, meaning that in a given dose of heroin, the user is getting 65 percent additive and 35 percent heroin on average.

Shifting Levels of Purity

In some areas of the country, the opposite issue is the problem. The National Drug Intelligence Center reports that there are increasing levels of purity of heroin seized in different parts of the country. With almost 90 percent purity in some cases, the dose of heroin that is 35 percent pure will affect the user far differently than the same amount of the 90 percent bag. The problem is that there are no labels to help users identify what they are purchasing and many inadvertently overdose believing that they are dealing with the same product they purchased in the past.

Other Dangers: Overdose and Death

There are so many different ways that heroin can harm its user that they are almost impossible to calculate or protect against. For example, a report in the journal Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports says that some heroin is shipped in such a way that it brings botulism to its users, a flesh-eating disease that destroys their limbs or takes their lives if they don’t get treatment immediately.

Additionally, the body’s ability to process the drug varies from day to day, so even if two doses are the same amount and taken from the same source, the user may find that one is overwhelming and causes overdose while the other barely allows them to get high.

Overdose is a constant concern when heroin is a part of the equation, the risk of which is increased exponentially under the following circumstances:

  • Heroin is used in combination with any other drug.
  • Heroin is used after another drug has been used, even if the person can no longer feel the effects.
  • Heroin is used after a period of abstinence for any reason (e.g., imprisonment, attempted sobriety, vacation, etc.).
  • Underlying medical conditions exist, including infection, heart problems, malnutrition and other conditions

Heroin Rehab Is the Only Safe Bet

The only way out of heroin addiction is an intensive, medical and psychotherapeutic addiction treatment program like the one we offer here at Black Bear Lodge. More information is available. Contact us now at 855-808-6212 to get your questions answered.