What It Is: Heroin belongs to a group of pain-relieving drugs called narcotics. The drug comes from the opium poppy, a flower that grows in Asia, Mexico, and South America. Pure heroin has the consistency of white powder. Some heroin is also dark brown, while black tar heroin is either sticky or hard and looks like roofing tar. Although some narcotics like codeine and morphine are legal if prescribed for pain relief, heroin is an illegal narcotic because it has dangerous side effects and is very addictive. Sometimes Called: horse, smack, big H, black tar, caballo (Spanish), 8-ball (heroin mixed with crack cocaine), junk, TNT How It's Used: Heroin is usually injected or smoked. Purer forms of heroin are inhaled. What It Does: Heroin provides a burst or rush of good feelings, and users feel "high" and relaxed. This may be followed by drowsiness and nausea. Many people who are addicted to heroin inject the drug into a vein with needles, and may inject the drug several times a day. Over time, the needle marks, or tracks, can become permanent scars. Often, heroin addicts will share needles, which can lead to infection with dangerous germs like hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Heroin is a very addictive drug and many people find it extremely difficult to stop using it — even after using it for just the first or second time. Heroin users constantly crave their next dose. If heroin addicts suddenly try to stop using the drug or are unable to get another dose, they often develop withdrawal symptoms, like feelings of panic, sleeplessness, bad chills and sweats, muscle pain, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Taking an overdose of heroin can cause a person to stop breathing and die. This is especially true if the heroin is mixed with a synthetic opioid like fentanyl. Many dealers now lace heroin with fentanyl, a painkiller that is much stronger than heroin and can cause an overdose more quickly. Back to Articles Related Articles Dealing With Addiction Find out what you can do if you think you or a friend has a drug or alcohol addiction - from recognizing the warning signs to suggestions to help you stay clean. Read More Drugs: What to Know It's not hard to find drugs, and sometimes it may seem like everyone's doing them or wanting you to do them. But there are downsides (and dangers) to taking drugs. Read More How Do People Get AIDS? AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, is a disease where the body is unable to fight off many infectious diseases as it normally could. Find out how AIDS is spread and how to protect yourself against it. Read More Cocaine Cocaine is a powerful and highly addictive stimulant drug. Find out more about cocaine and its effects. Read More Methamphetamine (Meth) Meth is a powerful stimulant drug that's extremely addictive and destructive. Find out how it works and why it's smart to avoid it. Read More Bath Salts Bath salts are powerful stimulant drugs that increase brain and central nervous system activity. Find out how they can affect you in this article for teens. Read More Depressants Taken medically, depressants help people get through problems like anxiety. But when used as a recreational drug, they can cause problems and affect some of the body's vital functions. Find out more. Read More School Counselors School counselors can give you all sorts of tips and support on solving problems and making good decisions. But how do you meet with a counselor and what is it like? Find out here. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.