Heroin itself isn’t necessarily a drug that creates violence or dangerous situations, but addiction behavior, trafficking, withdrawal, and underlying mental disorders can all create dangers.

There can be something that feels extremely scary about the concept of heroin. In the 1960s and 70s, the idea of the “junkie” really came to fruition although the term had been around longer. The concept of a junkie was an image of someone surrounded by needles and high on heroin, often lying in the streets. During that time, while the idea of heroin came more into the national consciousness, it was still something that seemed primarily reserved for fringe elements of society, and not necessarily a mainstream drug.

In the 1980s most people still believed heroin was a drug that was found almost entirely among low-income people in inner cities, so even though people might have been aware of its effects than previous decades, there was still a sense that it didn’t impact most of America.

Now, that’s all changed. Heroin is a drug that impacts all locations and demographics. People from all walks of life are being affected by heroin addiction, and it’s making more people rethink how they see heroin addiction. It also leads them to rethink the answer to questions like “are heroin addicts dangerous.”

The following provides some brief information and an overview as to whether or not heroin addicts are dangerous.

How Do People on Heroin Act?

Heroin is an opioid. This makes it different from a drug like meth or cocaine because it’s not a stimulant. Sometimes people on meth or cocaine tend to be more prone to violence and erratic outbursts because of the fact that these drugs are stimulants.

Heroin, on the other hand, binds to the brain’s opioid receptors and it first elicits a feeling of euphoria or an intensely pleasurable high and then following that the person taking the drug will often sink into a state of deep relaxation or even sedation. Heroin is also a depressant, so it slows down many of the body’s functions including the respiratory system.

Because heroin has a strong sedative effect on the body, it can severely impair a person’s functioning. This effect can indirectly make someone dangerous if they decide to drive, for example.

For these reasons, heroin on its own isn’t necessarily something that makes people dangerous, but there are indirect ways heroin addicts are dangerous.

Addiction Behavior

One of the ways heroin addicts are dangerous or can be is because of their desire to obtain more of the drug. Heroin is highly addictive, and it rewires the brain to focus almost entirely on obtaining the next dose of heroin.

When someone is addicted to heroin and experiencing intense cravings, the addict may start to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily, including being violent or participating in dangerous activities. For example, a heroin addict might start stealing in order to obtain more heroin, or they could become abusive or destructive to someone if they felt that person was trying to prevent them from doing the drug.

Additionally, the use of heroin itself is dangerous. Heroin use increases a person’s chances of contracting an infectious disease such as HIV or hepatitis C, which they could then pass on to other people.

In general, the risk of violence can be higher than normal with people who have an addiction, including heroin. People with addictions may have reduced impulse control and judgment as well, so they may lose their sense of reality, which can be dangerous for them and the people around them.

Basically, as people sink deeper and deeper into their addiction, they will do whatever they feel is necessary to support their need to use heroin.

Also, if someone has an underlying mental disorder and then uses heroin it can become more pronounced, which can also create a dangerous scenario.

Heroin Trafficking

Another way to look at the question of “are heroin addicts dangerous,” is to think about the selling and trafficking of the drug that goes around. Trafficking and distribution of heroin are very much associated with dangerous situations and violent crime.

In this way, heroin addiction can impact entire neighborhoods and areas where trafficking is going on, and it can impact friends and family of people who sell the drug and also who are addicted to it.

Heroin Withdrawal

Also relevant to the conversation surrounding the question of whether or not heroin addicts are dangerous is what happens during withdrawal. When a person is experiencing heroin withdrawal symptoms, they may be aggressive, defensive or violent. They may have extreme mood swings or experience thoughts or actions that could lead them to become a danger to themselves or others. This is why having a medically supervised withdrawal from heroin is so essential.

So, are heroin addicts dangerous?

The answer is yes and no. Heroin in and of itself isn’t necessarily a drug that creates violence or dangerous situations, but addiction behavior, trafficking, withdrawal and underlying mental disorders can all create dangers.

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Editor – Camille Renzoni
Cami Renzoni is a creative writer and editor for The Recovery Village. As an advocate for behavioral health, Cami is certified in mental health first aid and encourages people who face substance use disorders to ask for the help they deserve. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN
Benjamin Caleb Williams is a board-certified Emergency Nurse with several years of clinical experience, including supervisory roles within the ICU and ER settings. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.