Where do heroin addicts get injections from


Opium was known to the Sumerians and Egyptians 4,000 years ago, who used it as a medicinal plant, but also as an intoxicant. It was used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat pain. It was started to be eaten in Turkey and Persia around 1500 before opium smoking spread in China in the 17th century. Along with cannabis and cocaine, it is one of the most commonly used primary drugs.

However, the human body makes its own opioids known as endorphins. These dock on what are known as opiate receptors, which are located in many areas of the brain. Heroin occupies these receptors. There it relieves pain. For this reason, morphine is of great importance in medicine. It also dampens the respiratory center, which is why codeine is successfully used against dry coughs. Compared to the previous year, the number of first-time consumers fell by 14% in 2013.

According to the Federal Government's Drug Commissioner, around 200,000 people in Germany consume illegal substances (excluding cannabis), the majority of whom inject heroin. Overall, however, heroin use is declining. On the one hand, the procurement was made more difficult, on the other hand, the drug was displaced by others.

A study on the drug affinity of adolescents on behalf of the Federal Center for Health Education found in 2011 that 1.0% of 12 to 17-year-olds had consumed an illegal drug other than cannabis in the year before the survey. 0.1% of the male respondents between the ages of 12 and 17 had experience of using heroin.

Causes of Heroin Addiction

The dependence on heroin cannot be explained by its high addiction potential alone. People who do not shy away from the risks of addiction because of the drug's relieving effect are particularly at risk. They often suffer from mental health problems before they resort to heroin. Environmental factors that are perceived as unbearable and from which those affected want to flee can also promote dependency.

Forms of consumption

  • Inject into the vein = intravenous administration (heroin)
  • Smoking (opium)
  • rarely swallowing, inhaling, or sniffing

Effects of heroin

Many opiate receptors are located in the limbic system. Here, feelings and urges are controlled in interaction with other areas in the brain. Hence, heroin addicts feel relaxed and euphoric from using the drug.

If heroin is injected, the effect occurs within seconds (flash) and lasts for about 3-6 hours. When smoking or sniffing the flash does not occur. In addition, larger quantities are required for an intoxication effect. Nevertheless, many heroin addicts now prefer these forms of consumption, as they increasingly fear the risk of infection from the use of syringes. Only 36% of heroin addicts seeking treatment inject heroin.

Intoxication effect

  • High, flash or kick - state of intoxication that occurs after approx. 10 to 20 seconds when spraying
    Consumers feel happy and satisfied
  • Depression of mental activity and consciousness
  • Inhibition of unpleasant sensations such as fear, discomfort and feelings of emptiness
  • Indifference to demands, problems and conflicts
  • increased self-confidence
  • Calming, numbing pain


When consuming heroin, an overdose can occur very quickly, as the range between a tolerable and a toxic effect with heroin is very small. In people who are not used to heroin, even 5 mg are toxic. Addicts, on the other hand, need more and more of the drug. However, since the composition of the illegally sold drug fluctuates greatly, drug addicts can easily "unintentionally" overdose with:

  • Loss of consciousness with elimination of the reflexes, so there is a risk of choking on vomit
  • Breathing problems up to paralysis of the respiratory center
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Circulatory failure
  • Slowing down of the heart

Other risks

Heroin has a very high potential for addiction because it makes you physically addicted very quickly. Addicts need 0.5 to 3 g of heroin spread over the day, an amount that would be fatal for those who are not used to it. Heroin is shorter and more intense than morphine. Dependents therefore need ever larger quantities at ever shorter intervals. Heroin addiction is the hardest form of addiction to treat!

In addition to physical and psychological addiction with fixation on drug use, the following risks are associated with the use of heroin:

  • undesirable effects from impurities
  • Infections from unclean syringes, especially with hepatitis and HIV
  • Inflammation and abscesses
  • Broken arms, legs and skull as a result of convulsions during intoxication
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • long-term damage to the liver, lungs, stomach, intestines and teeth

Physical withdrawal symptoms

  • sweat
  • Freeze
  • Tremble
  • Body aches
  • Feeling weak
  • Nausea and stomach cramps
  • sleep disorders
  • Seizures
  • Circulatory disorders up to circulatory failure

Addicts can end these uncomfortable physical symptoms of addiction by re-using drugs. Therefore, their thoughts mostly only revolve around the procurement of supplies.

Mental withdrawal symptoms

  • Restlessness
  • fears
  • depressive moods
  • Suicidal thoughts

According to the ESPAD study (European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs), the risk of suicide in connection with the use of illegal drugs, with the exception of cannabis, is 2.4 times higher. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people in Europe. 189 adolescents and young adults committed suicide in 2010 in Germany.


Heroin is excreted in the urine and can be detected there for 1-4 days. Detection in the blood is only possible up to 8 hours after consumption. In the hair, on the other hand, it may still be possible to detect this after months.


The high costs of procuring the heroin (approx. 50 to 150 € per gram) inevitably lead to a criminal offense - e.g. theft and prostitution. Since 2009, the number of heroin-related offenses has been falling.

Heroin addictions often also consume alcohol, nicotine or other “substitutes”, which, together with heroin, reinforce each other's effects.

Typically, heroin addicts have trouble coping with everyday life. The loss of a home, job and social environment often lead to impoverishment.


Almost half of drug addicts seeking treatment are heroin addicts. In recent years, so-called substitution programs using the substitute drug methadone have been introduced in Germany. The aim is to prevent crime related to acquisitions and at the same time try to reintegrate the patient into everyday life. Around 75,400 people use this offer. This project is not without controversy - opponents see it as a breeding ground for drug-related crime.

Addresses & links

Federal Center for Health Education
Ostmerheimer Str. 220
51109 Cologne
Tel. 0221 / 8992-0
Advice line: 0221 / 8920-31
Fax 0221 / 8992-300
Email: [email protected]

German Central Office for Addiction Issues (DHS) e.V.
West Wall 4
59065 Hamm, Germany
Phone: +49 2381 9015-0
Fax: +49 2381 9015-30
Email: [email protected]
Internet: www.dhs.de

The drug commissioner of the federal government
in the Federal Ministry of Health

Friedrichstrasse 108
10117 Berlin
Phone: 03018-441-1452
Fax: 030-20640-4960
Email: [email protected]
Internet: www.drogenbeauftragte.de