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Heroin Routes of Administration & The Added Dangers of Each

Heroin Routes of Administration & The Added Dangers of Each

Heroin is a natural opioid derived from the opium poppy plant. It typically comes in the form of a white powder and, while it is illegal in the United States, it is frequently abused.

How Is Heroin Administered?

Like many illicit drugs, users will take heroin in different ways. The chosen heroin route of administration may vary depending on the type of high the user is looking for or their experience with drug abuse.


One of the most common ways to ingest heroin is intravenous injection. Because heroin typically comes in the form of a powder, users will heat the powder and “cook” it so that is turns into a liquid state. It is common for people to use lighters and spoons for this step. Next, the liquid is transferred to a syringe and injected into a vein. The benefit of intravenous injection is that it offers a more immediate high than other heroin routes of administration.

Added Dangers of Heroin Injection

This type of heroin administration comes with its own set of risks because of the many possible dangers of shooting up. The harmful side effects of injecting heroin can range from mild changes in the appearance of the skin at the injection site to a life-threatening bacterial infection of the soft tissue.1 While many people may be able to get away with only skin imperfections and some mild skin infections, when these infections are ignored or go untreated, they could lead to more serious issues. There is also the added danger of sharing or using dirty needles. Neglecting the proper needle sterilization could lead to blood-related conditions like HIV or hepatitis. Because injection allows for a more immediate high, there is also a high risk of overdose. Prolonged IV heroin abuse can also increase these risks, so it is better to get into an inpatient or intensive outpatient program immediately.


Inhalation is the second most common way to administer heroin. Similar to injection, heroin users will heat up the powder first. They typically do this in aluminum foil and then use a hollow tube of some sort to inhale the vapors.

Smoking heroin leads to more delayed effects than injection, but it is still just as addictive and will often still require some level of addiction treatment to get people to quit.

Added Dangers of Smoking Heroin

While smoking heroin can help a person avoid the dangers that come with needle sharing or IV drug use, inhalation of heroin is still dangerous. Smoking heroin may lead to respiratory problems like slowed breathing, exacerbated asthma, or air being blocked from entering the lungs.2 There is also still a risk of overdose.


Snorting is a less common heroin route of administration and is much more popular with cocaine. People who snort heroin will usually orient the powder into thin lines using a razor blade or credit card. It is common for people to do this on mirrors or glass surfaces so that the powder won’t stick. Next, they will use a hollow tube such as a rolled-up dollar bill to snort up the powder one line at a time. Because the drug will bypass the digestive system, snorting is a relative fast high.

Added Dangers of Snorting Heroin

While snorting may seem less dangerous than injection, this way of administering heroin stills comes with its own unique risks. Snorting heroin may lead to problems in the nasal cavity such as runny nose, sneezing, loss of sense of smell, and holes in the nasal septum. The effects can also bleed into other parts of the respiratory system and may lead to sinus infections, problems swallowing, and breathing problems.

No matter how heroin is administered, it can be accompanied with harmful side effects as well as the development of addiction. Our Broward County heroin rehab can help you or your loved one quit for good before these problems become serious.

If you or someone you loved is abusing drugs or alcohol, do not wait any longer to take action. To get help or to learn more about our treatment programs, call us today at 888-280-4763. At Banyan Pompano, we are here to help.


  1. NCBI - Abscess and Self-Treatment Among Injection Drug Users at Four California Syringe Exchanges and Their Surrounding Communities
  2. NIH - Health Consequences of Drug Misuse- Respiratory Effects
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Heroin Routes of Administration & The Added Dangers of Each
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