Heroin Overdose: The Signs, Dangers and Myths


Heroin is a very dangerous drug that produces potentially life-threatening consequences. One of the biggest dangers of heroin addiction is overdose. Even those who have used heroin for years are at risk for overdosing every time they take a hit.

Signs of Heroin Overdose

Heroin overdose is extremely dangerous. If you recognize any of the following signs of heroin overdose, seek immediate medical help.

  • Shallow breathing
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Bluish skin, fingernails and/or lips
  • Weak pulse
  • Low blood pressure
  • Constipation
  • Cold/clammy skin
  • Seizures
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Tongue discoloration
  • Stomach spasms
  • Coma
  • Disorientation
  • Muscle spasms/rigid muscles

Dangers of Heroin Overdose

Heroin attacks the central nervous system, causing a person’s breathing and heart rate to slow down to a point where it ultimately stops altogether. Sometimes people who overdose will pass out or slip into a coma or death without anyone even noticing, because it appears as if they’re experiencing a “normal” high. Other times, an overdose is more obvious. Since heroin overdose varies, you never know if you’ll have time to receive medical help or if you’ll slip into coma or death before help arrives.

The other danger of heroin overdose is the long-term physical and mental effects an overdose can have your body. Brain damage can occur if the brain is deprived of oxygen for any length of time; infections or viruses can permanently stay in the blood or organs; and combining heroin with other drugs can bring about long-term psychosis and create fundamental changes in the brain.

Myths of Heroin Overdose

If someone you know is experiencing a heroin overdose, the number-one thing you should do is seek medical help. Do NOT attempt to do any of the following misconceptions about how to handle a person overdosing:

  • Don’t let the person sleep it off.
  • Don’t put them in the shower (they could go into shock).
  • Don’t inject them with anything else, including water, salty water, coke, speed, milk.
  • Don’t try to induce vomiting or get them to walk around. This only wastes valuable time.
  • Don’t put anything in their mouth if they’re having a seizure.
  • Don’t force them to eat or drink anything.
  • Don’t leave them in the street hoping that someone else will help them. Take them to the emergency room.

Treating Heroin Overdose at Casa Palmera

At Casa Palmera, our goal is to help you overcome your addiction to heroin and avoid the dangers of heroin overdose. The skills you learn at our heroin addiction treatment program will help you return to the world healthy, strong, and able to avoid the temptations of drug use.

We understand that addiction is a complex disorder and that there are many reasons why a person uses drugs in the first place. That’s why we focus on individualized treatment based on a holistic program that treats not only the physical dependence on heroin but also the emotional and mental issues that have fueled the drug use. In addition to traditional methods of heroin addiction treatment, we also offer a variety of holistic methods such as acupuncture, massage and yoga to help reduce withdrawal symptoms and return you to a balanced state of well-being.

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43 Responses to “Heroin Overdose: The Signs, Dangers and Myths”

  1. Nina 27

    the only thing I can say is that when I first tried it it was like my best friend and it became my worst enemy in just a month and a half…. I’m constantly dreaming about it, it’s all I can think about 24 hours a day and I want to stop but I don’t know where to begin .. I’ve been to meetings, nothing seems to help stop the cravings, have any advice please let me know

  2. Zoey

    My aunt died in the minimum of 10 minuets of an overdose

  3. greg

    hy nina i’m from belgium so please forgive me my typingfaults but i’ve been a heroinaddict myself and i can only say go to a doctor and ask him to prescripe methadon..he will help you out further but for me metha was e great help with helping let go the heroin…sure its not easy but willing really to stop will get you going…it wasted too much of my years/money and in particular my thoughts!!every day we strugle to get clean!!(me and some friends)..good luck

  4. lalalu

    my brother died the second time he used that shit! he was 20

  5. Niki

    I’m so sorry, my son was 27 and overdosed on February28. I ‘m not sure how you are getting by, but I am a BASKET CASE. Today is my birthday and believe me I will be home crying all day and night.

  6. Debby

    I’m sorry Nikki my daughter died of a Heroin Over-dose on the 7th February injected by her partener,I know how you are feeling this gut wrenching pain that won’t go away she was only 32 years old and had apparently not used it often I don’t know much about it but I’m learning what an evil drug it is I wish the young were not looking for this feeling at all through drugs but onlife my thought’s are with you…Kind Regards Debby

  7. Lauri


    You need help. You can’t do it alone. You need to get into a 28-42 day inpatient detox/rehab facility; begin a 12-step program there, and then move on to a recovery home for 6-9 months. There are people there who can and will help you and teach you how to live drug/alcohol free. My daughter is a heroin addict. She is 76 days clean today and in a recovery home 1700 miles away from home, away from her co-addicts, and away from her triggers. I miss her terribly and my heart breaks every time she calls because I miss her so much… but she’s alive and doing great! She tells me that the urge is still there, and it will be for a long long time, BUT she lives in a recovery home with 7 other recovering addicts in a very highly populated recovery town, and they are very serious about staying clean and helping each other do the same. Please, get help while you still can.

    Meetings are helpful, but you really need that initial month of inpatient to go through the withdrawals and get on the other side (the sober side). They will give you the tools you need to stay clean… but you have to do the work. When my daughter was in the inpatient phase, I was truly amazed by the bonds that were formed between the addicts with each other and the counselor/addict bonds along with the encouragement and support everyone freely gave to each other. It’s a great place to start. Please get help for yourself.

  8. Pete

    I lost my partner to a heroin overdose 2weeks ago I’ve bin on it fo 30 years she had being using for 10 but didn’t have a habit as she only used at weekends I woke up with my arms around her cuddled up but she didn’t wake up all her family have turned against me our house was in her name she was the love of my life how long I live is not my concern any more I wouldn’t care if I dropped dead now I miss her so much

  9. Kim

    Pete my brother died jan 17 I miss him so much he was my best friend .l begged him to get help not to leave me alone I sit here alone. I’ve never done heroin but I have done pain pills. Please don’t give up get help there are people out there who care . Her family had to blame someone i’m so sorry for your loss.

  10. Symone

    Ive been a herion addict for 18yrs and am still on the methadone. my defacto wasnt a user and sadly he passed away june 4th 2013. I’m left now bringing up my son who is 1.5 yrs old and its killed me. Im doing more drugs now than ever as Im so depressed. he was my soul mate at heart and knowing he isnt comin back has killed me inside. In 2wks im meeting his whole family ive never met an have been told they mentally physically emotionally fuck up my defacto. what do I do? should I take my son to the memorial. im so confused, I cant stop crying it is totally fucked. the good die young. I musnt be good. r.i.p ty I loved you baby.

  11. Casa Palmera

    Thank you for your comment. We are sorry to hear about your loss and recent struggles. For help we recommend contacting your treating physician. You may also contact us for help and more information at 1-866-768-6719 or email info@casapalmera.com.

  12. brandy

    Hey I’m brandy I’m 22 I was addicted to heroin since I was 16 I was clean from 18 to 20 then I relapsed. I have od three times I just now got clean when I found out I was prego with my son at age 21 it is a struggle everyday. I relapsed multiple time since I had my son but because of god good grace i am alive. And I am sorry to all who hasn’t had the good luck or what u wanna call it that I did to where I didn’t die or was able to be brought back. I am clean now, everyday is a struggle I love heroin I like it to much but I realize that now.

  13. sandy

    3 nights ago I came home from work finding my son passed out and not breathing skin gray . He is 22 yrs old I called 911, help was on the way but me his mom who loves him more then life who brought him into this world had to do CPR until help got there. I pumping his chest crying and screaming as hard the whole time the operator saying calm down, your doing good. But still seeing no sign of life then help got there. I was a basket case they brought him back. I fell apart knowing how close I came to losing him. I never want to experience that again. Told him if he wants to keep using and wants to die then go away so I am not the one who will find him. I have heart trouble and fighting to live while he is killing him self. HERION and all drugs suck.

  14. rick

    Hello Sandy what a terrible expernce that must have been for you .i have been a heroin addict for 15 years and overdosed 3 times ,ive moved away and ive been clean for 3 monthes now, so it can be done. You can talk and preach to him untill yr blue in the face , he want get better untill he is ready to,he may not belive he has a problem yet ,i know i didnt for a long time, some say tough love is the answer for parents, i would just let him know you love him and be there for him when he decides to do something about his addiction.
    I attend meetings called “smart” its not quite as full on as na allthough this works for many people . Anyway take care Sandy i wish your family all the best .

  15. julie

    My sister passed away on the 8th june this year after giving up heroin for almost a year. Her bf got out of jail and the next day she died alone while he was sleeping it off upstairs. He never even had the decency to say a word to us. I feel so lost and think about her constently. I understand its very addictive i just wish that users could see the feel the pain the family and friends go through after losing someone so pointlessly. Its such a stupid way to go.

  16. kayley

    My boyfreind oded tonite and i got him up Walked him to the kitchen rubbed ice over his head, neck and upper body he came to this is the second time ive had to bring him back but this time was much worst he almost didnt come back. I really think washington state should make narcan availble to the public because what if i cant bring him back next time help wouldnt get to my house in time plus my man would kill me if i called for help and he came to before they even got here, which is what would have happened if i did call 911. Narcan would save slot of lives.

  17. kay

    My beautiful 22 yr old sister got hooked on percocet… Soon after she realised it eould b cheaper to buy heroin… She started sleeping with random men.. Sharing needles.. Driving high… stealing from the family. I tried numerous times to talk her into getting help but an addict can only b helped when they want it. Im 26 yrs old… I had a son n got peridontle disease so i was prescribed alot of pain meds… It got to a point when i started buying them because i was scared id grt pain again… Didnt know at the time that my mind was playing tricks on me… I was baited n hooked. I went to rehab three times in a five week period.. My son couldnt keep me clean.. My mom or myfiancee… It wasnt until i hit rock bottom fallin asleep behind the wheel… Totalling my car n losing everything that i had enough. I went to a program from detox n then to another. Proud to say 2012 july… I stopped abusing pain meds.. It works if u work it

  18. Recovering One day at a time

    Rehab with medical detox is your best bet Nina. I was deathly ill because I did it cold turkey. I couldn’t hold A DRINK of water down for 10-11 days I don’t remember ever being that sick in my life and had never prayed for death until then. There are maintenance programs also such as suboxone and methadone but that’s treating one addiction with another in my opinion because you also have to come off of those things. Methadone is pretty much synthetic heroin that’s extremely hard to get off of. Where I live none of the Methadone clinics even attempt to wean you off unless you ask which most ppl never do because the money they make giving you another drug legally they want to keep coming. The main problem I think or is here where I live and Im sure is every where else is rehab and treatment facilities are very expensive and hard to get into without plenty of money or really good insurance, so its cheaper to keep using. Anyone wanting to quit needs the mental treatment just as much if not more than the physical treatment. I can assure you both go hand in hand if you really want to stop using forever. Its gonna take way more than 30 days of treatment to train your brain to not want to get high. You have bad days here and there just like people that don’t use the key is to teach you how to cope with lifes stress without using. Coming from a recovering addict its not easy at first but every day gets better and before you know it you haven’t used in a year or 5 years. I only have 10 months today but my worse day sober is better than my best day high. I wish you the best and hope you find help soon.

  19. David

    Hi my name is David I am 35, I have been an addict for 17 years. After many attempts, I finally got clean in August of 2009. I have since relapsed hundreds of times. I have ridden the edge of life many times that I dont even remember. All I can say is that in order to defeat this demon you have to want it more than the dope. Not only that but u have to change EVERYTHING. Mostly you gotta change the hurt or pain your trying to cover up. You have to find happiness in something OTHER than the game, the chase, the hunt. It becomes so exhausting to cover a 100-200 a day habit. Man it was so much easier to wake up sober, feel those aches, get out of bed and get moving. Go to work, make money. Smile, laugh, eat, run, workout. Dont use. If you are reading this and you have the opportunity to STOP please just do it. Try. Your life is worth more than that. Even If we dont care. We all have others that do care about us. That will b heart broken, when you slip off and of and dont even realize your gone yet. Live today…

  20. David

    I like the ending of your post its the truth.

  21. Joan

    David, my niece just passed this morning from and od of herion, I am at a loss. I wished I would have seen your post yesterday……………………………………… 🙁

  22. Anonymous

    I read that you woke up to your partner passed away. I live with this fear every night. I am a user of almost a year. My partner has been using for about three. I want to stop I need him to want to stop. Every night I go to sleep wondering if I will wake up or if he will. I don’t want to use anymore I only take enough to keep the withdrawals away. I don’t want to live this life anymore. I want to help him. We have talked of stopping but never happens. I don’t want to lose him and I don’t want my family to lose me. They have no idea. I have a house my car a job. I refuse to borrow money from anyone. I’m so sorry for your loss. I pray it won’t be my story or my family’s.

  23. kelly

    all a person has to do when stopping heroin is….dont use it anymore…just put everything down..and quit…that is it…it is your choice of using the drug…when you first started using heroin, that was your choice..just lay it down and dont do it…yes there are side affects…to stopping the drug…but people who use heroin..just dont want to try to quit..cause they say it is to hard…if you realy want to stop doing heroin just quit..go threw the stages of quitting and do it…dont say..its to hard to quit..it hurts when i quit..so what if it hurts or hard to quit..i dont feel sorry for any of you junkies..you did this to your self no one made you put the drug into your body…it was your choice…and now you say it is to hard to quit…what a lier..just put it down and dont do it…yes it will be hard to do but just do it..

  24. Casa Palmera Staff

    There is a lot more to it than just stopping use of a drug sadly. Truly no one would continue using if they had a lot of bad consequences. Continued use of a drug in spite of negative consequences is the definition of the disease of addiction. If people could just quit, most would. There may be those individuals out there than can stop use of alcohol or drugs by going to AA or NA meetings but most need some kind of treatment. Many times underlying problems that have not been treated are at the core of continued use. Treatment many times can help.

  25. Jjwalk

    So my wife stopped breathing after shooting h and i gave cpr and she started breathing and came back to me. But my question is it has been about a hour and she wants another shot and keeps saying she is fine. She is getting really mad at me for not letting her do another shot when can she be safe to do one again? Cause she is going to do it again no matter what I do

  26. Casa Palmera Staff

    Please seek help for both you and your wife. People die from overdosing and you already have proof that it is high risk.

  27. Amy

    I would really like more information about your treatment plans and programs. I am an herion addict now and have been for the last year. As I just started using a year ago. Before that it was painkillers which I got into a suboxone program for. I wanted to get off the suboxone since it seemed to be effecting my everyday life…mentally, emotionally, and physically. Just about every area and felt completely numb on top of it all. My boyfriend who is now my husband helped me to detox myself off the suboxone and it was a solid month of pure hell. By the end of that month I looked like pure death but we did it. I’m not comfortable telling everyone world wide how I got through most of it but if I wouldn’t have done it the way I did I probably would have killed myself….because I literally just wanted to die just to not feel like that a second longer. I couldn’t eat or keep fluids down and everything was coming back out of every place I had for things to come out. Worst experience of my life. Withdrawal from painkillers was nothing compared to that. And I’m now finding that herion withdrawal is completely different than painkillers also. It’s horrible in a whole different way. I can say it is not as bad as the suboxone withdrawal though but I think it is more mental than any other withdrawal too. I would really appreciate it if you got back to me soon so I could speak to someone about your program

  28. Casa Palmera Staff

    Please call us at 888-481-4481 so we can answer your questions and help you on the road to recovery.

  29. Nik

    Nina 27, suboxin was by far the best to escape the toxic relationship with opiate addiction. Just make sure you are really ready. I would say it took a good two months gradually I became craving free. Even the first two months were 100 times better craving wise(with subs.)compared to any other method I’ve used to stop. The most important thing is to find a really good program where they make sure your dosage is absolutely correct. Also the idea is to go on it for approximately a year and taper toward the end of the year so you are finally comfortable when you are Suboxone free. The problem comes in when people don’t taper correctly, continue to use, have the incorrect dosage, or stay on it too long. It is not cheap but if you compare the amount of money you spend on opiates versus the medication you are still saving money. Good luck and I hope this helps.

  30. Mitch

    My partners dad overdosed on herion he snorted it thinking it was coke he passed out and was found 8 hours later he was taken straight to hospital they said he was hours away from death he survived but is a very different quiet person and is always tired he walks like he’s in pain and it has been about 3 months since this happened is there anything we can do to help him?? He was always so loud and never tired now he is the complete opposite

  31. Alex

    My cousin just lost his father due to suicide and he’s on a downward spiral, every day since I moved in with him this whole month he has been high on heroin to where he can barely stay cognitive and his lips and feet are blue in color I would do anything to help him please please help

  32. Casa Palmera Staff

    You need to consult a medical professional i.e. a psychiatrist or interventionist as soon as possible to get some advice on what you can do to help your cousin. This is a very tough situation you are in and important that you get good advice. Our Admissions office can help you with a referral in your area but they would need more information about your situation to better assist you. Please call us at 888-481-4481 so we can help.

  33. Brianna

    Tonight my cousin overdosed and then my brother brought him back with CPR, then in the ambulance with the transaction from the ambulance to the hospital he had (passed out) and woke up yelling “where am I” and then in the hospital he died for 15 minutes and they brought him back. Its gods gift✝

  34. Linda Rivera

    My beautiful son Matt G was found dead at one of his fathers girlfriends house from an alcohol and heroin overdose. The coroner said the time of death is dependent about what she said and the police investigation. They cant narrow it down. Evidently they were all partying and he went upstairs to be alone and laid there and died. I think he was bought there dying or already dead and because she was so messed up they left him to sleep it off. She didn’t check on him till mid morning I never heard that if your a drug user you become an alcoholic or both or a 180lb body can consume so much liquor in a short period of time and just die.so many unanswered questions and so sad I am left without my much loved son. I have a bad feeling about his death based on what I found out and how the small minded Hammonton NJ police handled it. They did nothing and did not care.

  35. Michele LaFleur

    Hi Bobbi,

    We would need more information to better understand your situation. Please call us at 858-481-4481.

  36. Gabrielle strelko

    Hi, he’s sleeping and is hard to wake iup he passed out on kitchen floor then went in bed he’s been sleeping 2-3 hrs now! Help

  37. Kassie

    I read these comments n yes they helped me today is 6 months losing my best friend my beloved 35 yr.old son who died of cocaine laced with fentanyl apparently from snorting or smoking..guess you can o.d.without needle use….I am trying to hard to cope,i was on vaca n he came to my home to. Work on my new bathroom..never made it upstairs