Since heroin overdose can be fatal, it’s essential to know the signs. Heroin is a central nervous system depressant and can be deadly when mixed with other substances, like Fentanyl. For this reason, purity and strength are not often guaranteed. In other words, there is no safe dose of heroin. A user’s tolerance, the amount taken, and the purity are all factors determining whether someone will have an adverse reaction to heroin. But, with every use the risks of drug overdose are incredibly high.
Like all opiates, tolerance builds with repeated heroin use, even when it’s relatively short term. Repeated use prompts users to take more and more to experience the effects they desire, whether it’s euphoria or to stave off withdrawal. Ultimately, there is no way to avoid an overdose when using heroin. An average amount for a regular user can cause a deadly overdose for a first-time user because of their level of tolerance.
Certainly, heroin is very addictive and can dramatically slow the heart rate and breathing. The signs of an overdose generally occur quickly after an individual ingests the substance. Some people may have a conversation or do other things before the symptoms appear, but others may exhibit overdose symptoms within minutes.
Likewise, other signs and symptoms of a heroin overdose can include:
- Awake, but not able to speak
- Limp body
- Pinpoint pupils
- Breathing slow, shallow or none
- Cold and clammy skin
- Blue or grayish lips
- Choking sounds, or a snore-like gurgling noise
- Weak pulse
- Low blood pressure
- Extreme drowsiness, confusion, and delirium
- Unresponsive to outside stimulus
Additionally, for more information on heroin abuse risks, please read SAMHSA Opioid Overdose Prevention Kit.