How Does Heroin Kill You? Here’s What Everyone Should Know About Heroin and Death

America battles an opioid crisis that worsens daily. In 2017, there were nearly 15,500 deaths from heroin overdoses. You know that opioids take countless lives daily, but just how does heroin kill you?

Anatomy of an Addiction

Addiction happens because drugs cause feel-good chemicals to be released in the brain. These chemicals are a reward to the brain, and addicts can’t function without them. The brain undergoes changes in the coping and self-control mechanisms as well.

Drug addictions affect everyone in all walks of life, but addiction goes hand in hand with mental illness

Many addicts start with prescription opioids. They change to heroin when prescriptions stop working or become too expensive to buy. 

Addiction treatment services are successful because they treat each part of the addiction. They address both mental illness and physical dependency.

Exactly How Does Heroin Kill You? Do You Have to Inject it?

How does heroin kill you if you smoke it or eat it instead of injecting it? The truth is that it doesn’t matter how you take the drug. 

Heroin kills in several ways. The drug itself causes deaths, and the lifestyle associated with it causes death as well. Let’s look at some of the common ways of how heroin kills.

Respiratory Drive Depression

Heroin is a central nervous system depressant. The CNS controls our respiratory system. Heroin slows the respiratory system and in some cases can cause it to stop altogether. 

When a person snores in his sleep, he wakes himself up because he isn’t getting enough oxygen. A person in a heroin-induced coma is unaware that he isn’t getting enough oxygen. He dies because his body forgets to breathe.

Dirty Needles

Heroin addicts frequently share needles. Infections can be passed between the users, including hepatitis and AIDS. 

An addict might continue to use his own needle many times. These needles are dirty and cause infections when reused. 

It’s not unusual that complications from using and sharing these needles can affect the heart and the lungs. These infections can kill you.


The lifestyle of a heroin addict is full of shady characters and unsafe environments. No matter how careful an addict is, he may find himself in a violent situation. 

The addict himself may turn to violence to get money to buy his heroin.

Dirty Drugs

Many heroin dealers “cut” (dilute) their heroin with substances so they can sell more of it. It’s not unusual for them to use rat poison and other poisonous chemicals.

A common synthetic (manufactured) drug that is used to dilute heroin is Fentanyl. It is 50 times more powerful than heroin alone and is up to 100 times more potent than morphine. Users are unaware that they are using heroin that has a powerful additive in it. 

Addiction can Affect Anyone

How does heroin kill you? Through a painful, growing addiction that worsens every day. Heroin addiction is not only hard on you, but it’s hard on those you love.

For signs that someone you care about may be battling an addiction, read here.