A woman uses a spoon and lighter to smoke heroin

The Opioid Epidemic claimed the lives of over 47,000 people to opioid overdoses in the year of 2017 alone. Heroin and fentanyl-laced heroin have remained at the center of the Opioid Epidemic, responsible for a very large percentage of the overdose deaths.

Heroin overdoses have risen from 1,960 deaths in 1999 to 15,482 deaths in 2017 (not including heroin that was likely laced with fentanyl). (1) Recently, a study found a growing number of people are smoking heroin.

Here we take a look at the trend of smoking heroin.

Smoking heroin

Heroin is most commonly injected or snorted by users in the United States. A 2018 study found that an increasing number of users were smoking heroin instead of snorting or injecting it. A woman sits in a room with lights after smoking heroin

Smoking heroin, commonly nicknamed “chasing the dragon”, is achieved by heating the heroin and inhaling the fumes.

What is the significance of this?

While using heroin is incredibly dangerous regardless of the route of administration, each method has its own inherent dangers. Smoking heroin has been shown to be more dangerous than insufflating (snorting) the drug, due to having a higher bioavailability and greater ease of administration.

Smoking heroin also causes the effects to occur much more rapidly than snorting the drug, which makes the drug more addictive and increases the chances of a fatal overdose occurring (2)

What are the long-term effects of smoking heroin?

Smoking heroin can have even more long-term effects than other methods of administration, along with the standard long-term effects of heroin/opioid abuse.

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Some common long-term effects of smoking heroin include (3):

  • Hydrocephalus – the buildup of fluid in the brain
  • Destructive of the brain’s white matter
  • Difficulty with speech
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Memory loss

Final Note

This article is intended for those considering a new way of life, free of the pain of drug and alcohol addiction. For more information on recovery and anyone seeking help with addiction and substance abuse problems, please call True Recovery at (844) 744-8783 or visit us online.


  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
  2. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/article-abstract/2687229
  3. https://www.newsweek.com/more-people-are-inhaling-heroin-and-its-leaving-them-holes-brains-1015404