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How to Smoke Heroin: Signs, Effects and Dangers of Smoking Smack

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Nowadays people define heroin as a street drug, having seen characters in movies and possibly people in real life snort, inject, and smoke heroin.
The most common method of consuming the drug is through injection, which delivers a quick and powerful high for the user. However, snorting and smoking it both have their appeal to users, especially those who are still functioning despite their addiction or who have a strong motivation to hide their use. It is important that both users and their loved ones understand the facts and risks regarding smoking heroin.

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Table of Contents

What Heroin Smoking Is

Can heroin be smoked? The answer is yes, which often surprises people. Based on how its use is presented in the media, most people assume that it can only be injected into the veins after heating it in a spoon. Heroin smoking is what it sounds like: the user heats the drug and then inhales the vapor or smoke. This is taken into the lungs and absorbed by the body, producing the high that the user is chasing. The exact method when heroin is smoked can vary.

However, all methods cause significant harm and can lead to addiction development and overdose.

How Users Smoke Heroin

Most heroin smokers will try various methods of smoking before settling on the one they are most comfortable with. Some may prefer glass pipes or more designer paraphernalia as their ways to smoke heroin. However, most users seem to prefer DIY pipes because they are cheap, quick to make, and easy to dispose of, allowing them to hide the evidence of their habit. There are few ways of smoking heroin for different forms of the drug: smoking powdered heroin, smoking black tar heroin. Homemade pipes or glass pipes are used for smoking heroin.
young woman inhaling the smoke of heroin drug

There is no best way to smoke heroin given the risks of using the drug. Anyone who is smoking the drug should seek assistance in getting clean.

What Makes Users to Smoke Heroin?

There are limited studies on why some choose to inhale heroin over injecting or even snorting it. However, it is easy to come to some conclusions. Some users believe that smoking carries less risk of overdose than snorting and produces a greater high. It is also less risky than using needles.
Perhaps the biggest reason for choosing smoking the drug has little to do with health and more to do with shame: other methods of consumption can leave marks or cause sniffling, which smoking does not.
Based on this, smoking the drug seems to users to be a reasonable alternative: the high it produces is similar to that of injecting in strength, it does not leave tell-tale signs on the body, and it skirts the specific health risks associated with using needles. So, does that mean that smoking is safe, or at least safer than other methods of use?

Dangers of Smoking Heroin

Ultimately, no method of ingesting heroin is safe, especially given the epidemic of heroin laced with fentanyl.

When it comes to comparing injecting and smoking, it is not a matter of one being safer than the other, but rather that there is a trade-off of risks. Without needle sharing, there is less likelihood of contracting certain illnesses, such as HIV and hepatitis.

There are other problems that are more likely to develop as well.
man with drug-induced asthmaFor example, Vilakshan Alambyan, Jonathan Pace, Benjamin Miller, et al. published a study that found links between smoking heroin and brain degeneration, leading to devastating neurological ailments. Users also experience illnesses related to the lungs that are not caused by the injection, such as asthma, COPD, and lung cancer.
Smoking heroin overdose is possible if too much of the drug is used, just like with other methods of use. In pregnant women, it can induce miscarriage and otherwise harm the baby. And because smoking heroin effects release certain chemicals in the body, addiction can develop quickly.

Signs That Someone Is Smoking Heroin

Given that heroin cigarettes are preferred to injecting often for the secrecy they offer, how can someone know if their loved one is smoking the drug? Luckily, there are signs of smoking heroin. The first thing to do is keep an eye out for signs that the potential user is high on heroin as the signs of a high are the same across the methods of use. Then look for other signs of using the drug in general, such as heroin teeth, that can be spotted. From there, keep an eye out for signs specifically associated with smoking to figure out if someone is consuming the drug in this manner, and if noticed, consider requesting a heroin drug test.

Red flags of “chasing the dragon”

  • Smell of the Drug: What does heroin smell like when smoked? It will depend on the type used. For example, black tar tends to smell heavily of vinegar since it is used in the production process, while purer forms carry a similar but less potent scent.
  • Masking Smells: Because users know that the smell can give them away, they are likely to try to mask the scent. This may mean wearing too much perfume, changing clothes seemingly without reason, and using deodorizing sprays. As such, loved ones should watch for these signs as well.
  • Language: Addicts often use specific lingo related to their habit, which means that loved ones should know nicknames for heroin in general and for smoking it specifically. One key phrase for smoking heroin? Chasing the dragon.
  • Visual Evidence: What does heroin look like when smoked? Once it is smoked, there really is no visible evidence of the drug left. What can be seen, however, is the paraphernalia used to smoke it. Smoking heroin on the foil is the most common method of smoking, so seeing foil in the trash or packets of foil could indicate a problem. Cigarette papers, glass tubes, and glass pipes may also be used. Finally, loved ones can also look for the packaging the drug comes in—either plastic baggies or balloons in most cases.

If any of these signs are noticed, attempt to confirm the drug use and then seek treatment for addicts. Do not attempt recovery at home as the heroin relapse rate without assistance is high.

Getting Help

Heroin smoke, while often thought of as the safest way to consume the drug, has dire consequences. Smoking heroin is a dangerous habit, one that can lead to addiction, disease, and even death. Anyone who is consuming the drug in this manner, or any other, needs to seek help from drug abuse rehab centers.

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Medically Reviewed By Michael Espelin APRN
Olivier George

About Author

Olivier George, Ph.D.

Olivier George is a medical writer and head manager of the rehab center in California. He spends a lot of time in collecting and analyzing the traditional approaches for substance abuse treatment and assessing their efficiency.


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  • Sally Cope
    What does black tar taste like when you smoke it??