Like any kind of addiction, an addiction to heroin can be physically and emotionally devastating. But the nature of drug abuse and addiction means it’s hard for addicts to see past their drug cravings to the harm that long-term drug use can do. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, these heroin addiction facts may give you the encouragement you need to find some help.

1. Heroin Use Has Hidden Costs

By some estimates, the street price of a single dose of heroin is less than the cost of a pack of cigarettes. While one dose of heroin may not be expensive, heroin addicts need more than one dose a day to keep withdrawal symptoms away. A long-time addict with a high tolerance to the drug may spend hundreds of dollars a day on their habit.

For heroin addicts, the cost of the drug itself isn’t the only price to pay. If you’ve racked up medical expenses for heroin-related health problems, you’ve already come face-to-face with those hidden costs.

Then there are possible legal costs and consequences. Being caught in possession of heroin means a fine of at least $1,000 for a first offense, $2,500 for a second offense and $5,000 for a third. There’s also the possibility of prison time:

  • Up to one year on the first offense
  • Two years for the second offense
  • Three years for the third offense

If you’re using heroin, it’s time to ask yourself some tough questions to figure out what it’s costing you. How has heroin affected your ability to work, and do your job well? Has it decreased your ambition and drive to move forward in your career? If you’ve lost a job or missed out on a promotion due to problems caused by heroin addiction, how much did that cost in lost income?

2. The Cost of Heroin Isn’t Only Financial

These are costs you can’t put a price tag on, but in many ways they’re even more significant than the financial costs of heroin addiction.

Physical Health

When you factor in the hidden costs of heroin addiction, it’s easy to see why an addiction is more expensive than it seems at first glance. But that’s only the financial costs. The effects of heroin include physical and emotional costs too. Heroin use can lead to:

  • Collapsed veins
  • Organ damage
  • Medical complications, such as pneumonia and infection of the heart or bloodstream

Intravenous heroin users have a high risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C if they share needles with other people using heroin.

Mental Health

The emotional costs of substance abuse are high too. People who use heroin have a higher risk of depression and other mental health problems. This is partly because of the way in which addiction affects levels of dopamine in the brain.

In the long-term, heroin use can also affect your decision-making abilities, and your ability to handle stress.


And then there are the relationship costs. Addiction is an isolating disease that often causes addicts to behave in anti-social ways. Maybe you’ve experienced break-ups, divorce or the loss of friendships and family relationships. Parents may even lose custody of their children if their addiction causes them to behave irresponsibly.


Addiction means the loss of quality of life, the loss of strong and trusting relationships, and the loss of time. The time spent feeding an addiction is time you’ll never get back. How many weeks, months or years have you spent in a dysfunctional relationship with heroin?

3. A Heroin Overdose Can Be Deadly

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 15,000 Americans overdosed on heroin and died in 2017. That’s nearly 5 out of every 100,000 people. The states with the highest rates of death due to drug overdose are:

  • West Virginia
  • Pennsylvania
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Kentucky

Heroin is even more deadly these days because it’s often laced with opioids like fentanyl. This synthetic opioid is up to 50 times stronger than heroin. It’s sometimes added to heroin to make it more potent. Other times, you may think you’re buying heroin when you’re actually buying fentanyl. The death rate from heroin overdose has increased by more than 4 times since 2010, and it’s partly due to fentanyl.

4. Heroin Is Even More Dangerous When Mixed with Other Drugs

Heroin is dangerous for many reasons, but using heroin together with alcohol and other commonly abused drugs makes it an even bigger risk. The most dangerous combinations are heroin and alcohol or heroin and prescription sedatives, such as Valium® and Xanax®.

In fact, most deaths due to heroin and opiate overdose happen because the victim has taken these kinds of drug combos. Taking heroin plus alcohol or heroin plus prescription sedatives makes the sedative effects much stronger. These combinations suppress your central nervous system even more than heroin does by itself, increasing your risk of overdose, coma and death.

5. If You Use Heroin, Your Loved Ones Are at Risk Too

If you’re using heroin, you’re not just putting your physical and mental health at risk. Intravenous heroin use and needle sharing increase the risk of contracting blood-borne viruses. If you do contract one of these diseases, there’s a risk of you passing it on to your sexual partners or friends or acquaintances with whom you share needles.

The risks extend to children too. There’s about a 5% chance that hepatitis is transmitted either during pregnancy or during childbirth. If you’re a woman and you use heroin during pregnancy, your child may be born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. Without hospitalization and treatment, there’s a risk of serious illness and even death for the newborn child.

6. Help Is Available, If You Want It

Are you tired of the endless cycle of addiction? You can stop using heroin and start living life again. Breaking free from drug use and addiction might be the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but it will likely be the most worthwhile. If you’re ready to hear about the different addiction treatment options available for heroin, The Ranch is here to help. Click here for more information.

Krisi Herron

Medically Reviewed by

Krisi Herron, LCDC

Choose a better life. Choose recovery.