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.
What Heroin Smoking Is
Can you smoke heroin? 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. While this is one method of ingesting the drug and is certainly the most common, many users prefer heroin smoking.
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.
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.
How to smoke heroin depends on the method of smoking and the type of the drug smoked. Smoking powdered heroin tends to be easier because it cooks faster. Smoking black tar heroin is harder since cooking times are greater.
A heroin smoker who makes their own pipes will have different steps for smoking the drug than someone who uses a glass pipe. Assuming the pipe must be made, the general steps are as follows:
- Get a sheet of tin foil.
- Fold the foil into a shape conducive to smoking.
- Roll the foil around a tube-shaped object of the right size for smoking.
- Secure the foil with something to stabilize it, such as cigarette paper.
- Get another sheet of foil and place the drug on it.
- Heat the drug using a lighter placed underneath the foil.
- Place one end of the pipe in the mouth and hold the other end just above the heated drug.
- Inhale the vapors being produced.
What Motivates 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. Smoking carries less risk of overdose than snorting and produces a greater high. It is also less risky than using needles.
Perhaps the biggest motivator 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. And 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. But there are other problems that are more likely to develop.
For 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.
Getting Help for Smoking Heroin
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.
Are you or a loved one suffering from a heroin smoking addiction? You do not need to resign yourself to this. Speak with our addiction specialists at (888)-459-5511 for assistance.