What Is Shooting Heroin?

Shooting heroin, also known as “shooting up,” is a common term for injecting the drug directly into your veins through the use of a hypodermic needle. This type of abuse provides the fastest onset of drug effects because the drug immediately integrates with the bloodstream and travels immediately to the brain, where it may cause feelings and sensations throughout the body.

Within the family of opioids, heroin is one of the most popular. Two main variations are sold within the US. Powder heroin is a powder usually diluted, or cut, with similar-looking common substances like sugar or powdered milk. Powder heroin is typically thought of as being white, but it may also be off-white depending on the mixture and the region where it comes from. It is said that whiter heroin is purer, but that may or may not be true depending on what it is cut with. People using powder heroin usually snort or smoke it, which makes it a slightly more appealing option to people trying it for the first time

Impure black tar heroin makes up the rest of heroin sales. The manufacturing process involved in this drug leaves behind many impurities and gives it an appearance similar to tar. Because of its form, snorting doesn’t work as well, leading users to melt it and inject it directly into their veins or smoke it, most typically on tin foil.

Why Do People Shoot Heroin?

When injected, heroin quickly rushes to the brain; its effects can be felt almost immediately. Because of the euphoric, numbing, and exceedingly addictive nature of heroin, dependencies and addictions form quickly. Even with the evident risks, the dependence on heroin drives people to seek out any possible means of ingestion.

What Makes Shooting Heroin Worse For You?

The invasive nature of injecting drugs predisposes users to more health complications, and unless used by a medical professional, syringes can create many health problems. If the insertion is too shallow, the heroin can pool in areas below the skin and cause infections and abscesses. Conversely, if the needle pushes too far, it can pierce the intended vein and deposit heroin on the other side leading to similar issues.

Furthermore, heroin is generally acidic, though different batches can be more or less acidic – some even stand as far as two steps apart on the pH scale. For reference, vinegar and battery acid are also two steps apart on the pH scale. This volatility leads to severe agitation within the body and commonly causes bruising, vein collapses, and entry site inflammation. Together, these symptoms create “track marks” or scarring along the skin, a telltale sign someone is an intravenous drug user.

Over longer periods of use, veins can cease to function correctly, leading most with an addiction to try and inject in other parts of the body.

When a usable vein can’t be found, people may resort to just injecting it into skin or muscle tissue. Abscesses and infections can lead to serious issues with equally extreme solutions. Unchecked, these complications can require skin grafts and full limb amputations if medical attention isn’t received in time. 

Long-Term Damage Caused By Shooting Heroin

Overusing and sharing syringes leads to some of the most serious long-term health risks. Using the same needle multiple times in a row damages the tip, and it can no longer function safely. As the tip blunts further, the entry it makes into the skin and veins becomes messier and more prone to infection and improper healing.

Syringes shared by several people pose a serious risk for blood-borne illnesses. Diseases like HIV and hepatitis pose a serious threat to Injection Drug Users (IDUs). In situations where medical attention isn’t an option, these diseases quickly deteriorate the health of the user. Both can eventually lead to death without proper care, and in many drug-sharing communities, these risks are often seen as commonplace.


Any user runs the risk of overdosing when taking heroin, but injection is associated with significantly increased odds. By injecting heroin, a user bypasses some of the body’s filtration and dilution mechanisms. The digestive tract, kidneys, and liver all help metabolize and dilute substances we consume, but injecting the drug puts it directly into the bloodstream to flow around the body. 

Recognizing The Signs Of Heroin Addiction

People addicted to heroin often hide their use well, but if you’re afraid a loved one may be shooting heroin, there are signs to look out for.

Warning Signs For Heroin Addiction
Behavior Acting secretively or evasively, suddenly needing to borrow money, and periods of drowsiness can all indicate someone is using heroin.
Appearance Track marks are direct physical signs that someone is shooting heroin, but a person can also experience sudden weight loss, red eyes, and constricted pupils.
Paraphernalia Finding syringes would be the most obvious sign of use, but lighters and spoons are also part of the shooting process.

Reach Out Now

The scourge of heroin addiction has claimed far too many lives and ruined countless others. But there are new advances being made in addiction science every day, and every day a formerly addicted person celebrates another sobriety anniversary. You can do the same. If you are struggling with an addiction to heroin, get rehab-related help today by contacting a treatment provider.