Is It Safe to Try Heroin Just Once?

The short answer: No.

Synthesized from morphine, heroin has seen a steady rise in potency since the 1990s.1 The result: One in four people who try heroin will become addicted.2

Take it from Donny S., who shared his story on the Heroes in Recovery community website. Today, Donny is a grandfather of four and a business owner—a fact he dubs “a miracle.” He was in his late 20s when the curiosity for heroin led him to experiment.

“One day, when I was sober, an old rock song about using with a needle came on,” he writes. “All my entire youth I was always very curious about this song, about this topic, about using a needle to get high…I had never done heroin, but I was very curious and attracted to it.”3

He gave it a try.

What followed was a quick dismantling of the life he had built. First came prison after police found drugs in his car, followed by six months of court-ordered rehab. “But after that was over I went back to bartending and started using heavily again.”

By the time he was 35, Donny was back in rehab—this time determined to get clean.

“I kept working the program and the steps, and finally my life started to get better and better, little by little. After about a year I started to level off a little bit. It took about two years before I experienced total peace and happiness with a lot of hope.”4

Tragically, not all stories of heroin use end like Donny’s. Hand in hand with the drug’s increase in potency are deaths due to overdose, the number of which nearly doubled between 2011 and 2013 alone.5 Zoom out to the four years spanning 2010 and 2014 and overdose rates have tripled.6

Among those to die from the drug is Anthony F., whose father also shared his story on Heroes in Recovery. Anthony was 24 when he passed away in 2014. When speaking at his funeral, his father described just how acute the pain he and his wife experienced with their son’s premature death was. “For the last week, his mother has carried one of Anthony’s unwashed shirts around with her holding it to her face so she can smell him,” he said. “Do what you want, but before you ever again dare say, ‘I’m only hurting myself,’ look at your mother, look up the word ‘inconsolable,’ and remember Anthony’s mother.”7

But what if you don’t die from heroin? What then? Use just once, and you risk not just nausea and vomiting, but permanent brain damage and coma.8 Keep at it, and you’ll likely see a decrease in sexual functioning and an increase in trouble sleeping, not to mention severe constipation and dental problems.9

As devastating as heroin may be, as long as a person is still alive, there is hope for recovery.

Meagan F. discovered this the hard way, as she shared on the Heroes in Recovery website. “I stole thousands of dollars from my loving father; I destroyed so many precious relationships; my ex-boyfriend killed himself in 2009; I introduced numerous other people to heroin; I contracted Hep C; and I was in and out of the hospital for needle-related infections.”10

She concludes: “If after 10 years of shooting heroin I can get clean, then anyone can.”


4. Ibid.

Written by Tamarra Kemsley