How Heroin Affects the Heart

Heroin is an opioid drug that’s highly addictive, and highly detrimental to the health of people who abuse it. There’s hardly any part of a person’s body that isn’t affected by heroin use, and the risk of very serious side effects and adverse outcomes increase the longer someone abuses the drug.

First, before looking at how heroin affects the heart, an overview of what it is and how it impacts the brain.

How Heroin Affects the Heart
Heroin is an opioid drug that can be taken in several different ways including being smoked, snorted and injected. Heroin isn’t a new drug, and in fact, in the late 1800s, it was an over-the-counter medicine that was marketed to everyone including children. While heroin has long been abused because of its highly addictive properties, it wasn’t until the 1960s and 70s when that abuse became more prevalent. Since the start of the 2010s, heroin abuse has become more mainstream and impacts communities across the country ranging from inner cities to suburbs and rural areas.

When someone takes heroin, it binds to the opioid receptors in their brain, flooding them with dopamine. That dopamine makes the person feel euphoric, and then the pleasurable high is followed by a period of deep relaxation or sedation.

Along with producing a high, heroin has many dangerous and even deadly side effects.

Some of the common side effects of using heroin and other opioids include constipation, impairment, urinary retention, accidents, and injuries and there’s the risk of overdose as well.

So what about how heroin affects the heart?

First, the heart and the blood vessels that go through them are part of the cardiovascular system, which is responsible for the essential functions of moving oxygen and nutrients, regulating body temperature and protecting you from infection.

Unfortunately, despite the important role of the heart, drugs including heroin can wreak havoc on the cardiovascular system.

When someone takes heroin, as mentioned above, it releases a burst of chemicals that creates euphoria, however, according to the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers found that people who take opioids are more than twice as likely to have a heart attack as compared to people who don’t take this type of drug.

One reason this is believed to be the case is because heroin contains contaminants and toxins that aren’t meant to enter the blood stream. When someone injects these substances, it can block their veins and the flow of blood in their cardiovascular system.

Heroin users, particularly chronic users of the drug also experience health disease and similar complications in many cases. This is because the drug causes the areas around the heart to malfunction, which can lead to heart failure and other problems. People who take heroin and have a family history of heart disease are at a particularly high risk.

Other ways how heroin affects the heart specifically include:

  • When someone takes heroin, which depresses the respiratory system, it can lead to problems of the heart’s functionality. People who take opioids may have a heart with problems contracting, particularly if they mix the opioids with benzodiazepines like Xanax. Also, when people who have underlying cardiac problems, combining opioids and benzos can lead to heart failure.
  • Bradycardia: Bradycardia is the medical term for a slowed heart rate, and it’s relatively common for opioid users. When someone has bradycardia, it can cause them to have the inability to do physical activity, because the heart rate can’t increase as it needs to with exercise.
  • Vasodilation: Vasodilation refers to the dilation of blood vessels which can create low blood pressure and sudden drops in blood pressure. Vasodilation can occur with opioid use, including heroin.
  • Infectious endocarditis: This is a deadly infection of heart valves and other heart structures, and it’s been seen in recent years in an increasing number of young people. It’s believed to be the result of intravenous heroin use. Even when people survive this dangerous condition, the survivors often have chronic cardiac disease.

Finally, along with the above ways how heroin affects the heart, during opioid withdrawal, the cardiovascular system can also be affected.

Opioids including heroin have a devastating effect on every area of a person’s life including not just their relationships and their overall physical health, but also on essential organs and systems including the heart and cardiovascular system.

How Heroin Affects the Heart
4.5 (90%) 4 votes