A phrase you may hear regarding the opioid epidemic is heroin kit. A heroin kit is something that includes everything to get high.

The heroin problem in the U.S. has become an epidemic. Overdose and death rates related to heroin and other opioids have risen exponentially. This increase is partly because of the increasing number of people with substance use disorders, as well as the strength and potency of drugs now being sold on the streets.

Heroin Addiction

Opioids include not just heroin, but also prescription pain-relievers. When opioids are used, they bind to certain receptors that can lead to a feeling of euphoria, known as a high. Typically, when someone takes prescription pain relievers exactly as prescribed, and only for a short period, they won’t experience addiction, although it is possible.

With heroin, because of the nature of the drug and the intensity of the high and the other effects on the brain, people can become addicted to the drug after a few uses.

It’s important for parents and other people who believe their loved one could be at risk for addiction to learn about the drug, its effects and the signs of use. Addiction is a chronic disease, meaning there are treatment options and ways to manage it, but people struggling with addiction are often reluctant to even say they have a problem and take the steps necessary for treatment. That’s why identifying red flags can be useful for their loved ones.

Heroin Slang Terms

There are slang terms for heroin and other elements related to its use. Some of the street names for heroin include Big H and horse, among many others. Dope is another street nickname for heroin, and junk has been a long-standing slang term for heroin, which is why people who use heroin may be called junkies.

As well as the nicknames for heroin, there are also slang names for using it and the tools that people use to get high on heroin. The phrase “chasing the dragon” is commonly used to describe inhaling heroin vapors to get high, while injecting heroin into a vein using a needle is described as “mainlining”. Additionally, if someone injects heroin into their skin instead of into a vein, it’s called “skin popping”. Mixing heroin and cocaine is typically called “speedballing”. When heroin is combined with other substances, ranging from household substances to deadly substances like fentanyl, this process is called “cutting”.

What Is a Heroin Kit?

Another phrase you may hear regarding the opioid epidemic is “heroin kit”. A heroin kit is something that includes everything necessary to get high. For example, since heroin is most often injected for a more intense high, people need a few materials. They need a needle or syringe to inject the drug, but first, they have to liquify it. Liquefying heroin may be done in a spoon. To make veins more visible, people will tie-off the extremity where they’re going to inject it, so they will need something like a shoestring. A heroin kit may also include cotton balls, which are used after liquefying heroin as a way to purify it further.

These items are only in a heroin kit if a person injects the drug. Paraphernalia may be different if someone smokes or snorts the drug. For smoking the drug, a heroin kit might include a glass pipe of some type.

Heroin itself is sold as a crumbly powder, and it may be off-white or dark brown. There’s also something called black tar heroin, which looks much like the name indicates. It’s sticky and dark brown or black. Other elements of a heroin kit may include lighters and rubber tubing or belts, both of which are used to tie-off and make veins larger.

If you have a child or a loved one that you believe is using the drug, or you find a heroin kit, it’s important to understand that there are ways you can help them. People struggling with heroin addiction don’t necessarily have to voluntarily go into treatment for it to be effective. Keeping an eye out for signs of active heroin use is important if you have any suspicions at all.

Along with the items in a heroin kit, there are other signs of drug use as well. When someone uses heroin, they’ll first feel euphoric, and they may appear to be energetic or to have a falsely inflated sense of well-being. Then after a few minutes, they’ll start to appear drowsy. They may nod off, have coordination problems or seem slow and heavy. Long-term signs of heroin use can include track marks if the person injects the drug, and strange sleeping and eating patterns. People who use heroin may become secretive and avoid family, friends and responsibilities.

Camille Renzoni
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
Jessica Pyhtila
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. 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.