What Does Heroin Look Like?

Heroin is a drug that is derived from morphine. Both morphine and heroin are extremely powerful opiates that are obtained from a certain species of the poppy plant. To obtain the substance, small incisions are made in to the seedpods of the flowers, within which is contained a raw opium that seeps out in the form of a milky white sap. This raw opium is then collected, dried and processed into the drugs that we know as morphine and heroin. Heroin can take on several different looks, textures and varying levels of purity, and can also be packaged and distributed in different ways.

What Does Heroin Look Like?


In its most pure form, heroin is a finewhite powder. However, more often than not, you will see heroin that is brown, rose gray or even black in color. This non-white coloring comes from the fact that additives have been cut with the heroin to dilute the strength of the drug. These additives can be anything from sugar and caffeine to much more dangerous substances.

On a street level, heroin can often be cut with pharmaceutical poisons that do not fully dissolve when injected in the body and run the risk of clogging blood vessels in the lungs, kidneys orbrain. This in turn can lead to destruction of these vital organs, and in serious cases, death. Buying heroin on the street can never guarantee its purity, thus users are always at risk of an overdose.

Heroin is never, or extremely rarely, sold at full purity. In fact, depending on where a user buys the drug, their heroin can often be only 22% to 33% pure with the rest being diluting additives.


What does heroin look like also has to do with its packaging. Heroin is generally packaged in four ways:

  • Folded-up squares of aluminum wrap for white powder.
  • Small quantities in balloons that are tied at the top.
  • Gelatin capsules that are emptied of their original contents and refilled with heroin powder.
  • Small plastic zip-lock bags.

Street Names

Heroin has many different street names including:






Black Tar







China White


Chinese H


Harry Cone


How Is Heroin Used?

Now you have some ideas about what does heroin look like, you may also want to know how people use it. Heroin can be introduced in to a user’s system in several different ways that provide different speeds of “high”:

  • Injection: heroin can be combined with water and injected directly in to the veins (“shooting up”), muscles, and outer layer of the skin (“skin popping”). Its effects can be felt seconds to minutes after injection depending on the method.
  • Nasal insufflation: this involves snorting powdered heroin up through the nose (“snorting”). Effects felt within 15 minutes.
  • Smoking/Inhaling: this involves heating powdered heroin on aluminum foil and inhaling the vapors or rolling up into a cigarette and smoked. Effects felt after 10-15 minutes.
  • Oral: involves directly swallowing heroin. Effect felt within 30 minutes.
  • Rectal: also referred to as “plugging”, this is a very uncommon way of consuming heroin, but this involves inserting powered heroin in the rectum for it to be absorbed by the membrane. Effects felt within 15 minutes.

Heroin Dependence and Craving

When it comes to living a lifestyle while taking heroin, you can expect both the psychological and physical dependence on the drug to be extremely strong. Heroin withdrawal typically starts to begin between 6-12 hours after the last usage, and this can begin with flu-like symptoms along with an increase in yawning and feelings of anxiety. Next, the user will slip in to a restless sleep lasting up to several hours, with the withdrawal hitting its peak between 36-72 hours, at which time addicts will suffer severe gastrointestinal problems, goose bumps and dilated pupils.

These physical symptoms are, of course, accompanied by a strong desire to seek out and take more heroin, with more psychological symptoms including aggression, insomnia, paranoid delirium and increased heartrate and blood pressure. The majority of these symptoms will fade after 5-10 days.

This desire is known as craving, which is extremely common when withdrawing from any addictive substance. In the case of heroin, one of the most addictive substances there is, the craving can be almost insatiable and many users find it difficult to overcome. Apart from what does heroin look like, another frequently asked question is that why people get addicted to it. The craving is driven partly by the wish to stop the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, and partly by the desire to re-live the euphoric high.

What to Do If You Find Someone Using

Contrary to media stereotype, a drug user might not necessarily look like they are under the influence of substances. In a lot of cases, a person may just seem over-sleepy, and they will always deny that they are using.

Now that you know what does heroin look like, if you have any suspicions that a friend or family member is using heroin, do not wait and hope that the problem will rectify itself. A heroin addict is in need of major help, and the most effective course of action is to get them admitted in to a drug treatment program where they can be helped by professionals.

Rehabilitation for heroin addiction involves the addict’s system being completely cleansed of opiate toxins, and is cemented by teaching them how to make better life choices and avoid falling back in to their old ways. Often, a serious drug addiction will have stemmed from a particular issue or trauma, and in rehab these triggers can be identified and dealt with.

If you think somebody is overdosing, call emergency services as soon as possible because treatment will need to be given within minutes. Proper medications, if administered in time, can reverse the effects of heroin and save a lot of pain. A heroin overdose is typically characterized by slowed breathing and a slow heart rate accompanied by a loss of consciousness. These symptoms are usually reversed by a medicine called Evzio, which delivers a single dose of adrenaline to the heart that kick starts the body and stops it from shutting down.

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