Heroin overdose

Alternative names  
Acetomorphine; Diacetylmorphine

Poisoning from an overdose of heroin.

Poisonous Ingredient

  • heroin

Where Found

  • heroin


  • body as a whole       o muscle spasticity  
  • respiratory       o breathing slow and labored       o breathing shallow       o stopped breathing (sometimes fatal within 2-4 hours)  
  • eyes, ears, nose, and throat       o pinpoint pupils       o dry mouth       o tongue discoloration  
  • skin       o bluish colored fingernails and lips  
  • gastrointestinal       o spasms of the stomach and/or intestinal tract       o constipation  
  • heart and blood vessels       o weak pulse       o low blood pressure  
  • nervous system       o drowsiness       o disorientation       o coma       o delirium

Home Treatment
DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING. Call emergency services and Poison Control Center.

Before Calling Emergency
Determine the following information:

  • the patient’s age, weight, and condition  
  • the name of the product (ingredients and strengths if known)  
  • the time it was swallowed  
  • the amount swallowed

Poison Control, or a local emergency number
They will instruct you if it is necessary to take the patient to the hospital. See Poison Control centers for telephone numbers and addresses. Bring a sample with you to the emergency room if available.

What to expect at the emergency room
Some or all of the following procedures may be performed:

  • Use gastric lavage.  
  • Administer activated charcoal.  
  • Administer a laxative.  
  • Give a counteracting drug (narcotic antagonist)-multiple doses if needed.  
  • Administer intravenous fluids as needed.  
  • Monitor breathing.  
  • Treat the symptoms.

Expectations (prognosis)
If an antidote can be given, recovery from an acute overdose occurs within 24 to 48 hours.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised:

Diseases and Conditions Center

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.