The use of illegal drugs involves many long- and short-term risks. Do not endanger your health: do not use illegal drugs! If, however, you do in fact use illegal drugs, it is advisable to be supported or accompanied by some other person who can call the emergency services in the case of sudden severe illness.

NB! Drugs effects vary according to the psychological state and the health of the person concerned, the context in which the drug is taken as well as the quality of the drug and the quantity consumed.


Heroin is an opium derivative, a natural substance present in the poppy plant. This drug is therefore an opiate like codeine, methadone and morphine. The principal component of heroin is morphine, which is a powerful and very addictive pain killer. Heroin can be inhaled, injected or sniffed.

Heroin is a psychoactive substance which is:

  • illegal
  • semi-synthetic
  • a tranquillizer.

Desired effects

  • Intense feeling of wellbeing, tranquillity, relaxation, rapture and disinhibition
  • Euphoria, disappearance of worries and troubles
  • Reduction of pain

Physical symptoms

  • Slowing of heart rate
  • Dry mouth
  • Heavy limbs
  • Contracted pupil.

Immediate risks

  • Nausea, vomiting, hypothermia (drop in body temperature)
  • Sleepiness, loss of feeling, inhibition of the coughing reflex, respiratory depression
  • Reduction in gastrointestinal function
  • Delayed ejaculation
  • Risk of overdose: loss of consciousness, cardiac arrest, coma, death.
  • Risks related to the injection: transmission of infectious diseases when sharing syringes (HIV, hepatitis, etc.)

Long-term risks

  • Strong psychological dependence: uncontrollable need to take a drug (“craving”)
  • Strong physical dependence
  • Attention disorders, difficulty in memorising, drop in awareness and attention
  • Mood disturbances: depression, permanent anxiety, anorexia, insomnia
  • Hypersensitivity to pain
  • Endocarditis, infections of the internal membrane and valves of the heart with intravenous injection
  • Pulmonary complications, intestinal and sexual disorders, abscesses

Sciensano collects data and analyses the consumption of drugs, the drug market, the consequences for health, requests for treatment and the policies implemented with regard to drugs in Belgium.

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