There are several ways that heroin is used by the user. Heroin is usually injected, sniffed/snorted, or smoked.
Smoking: Heroin can be smoked in a pipe or similar smoking device or more commonly heroin can be smoked by burning it on tin foil while inhaling the smoke through a tube or straw. This is known as "chasing the dragon".
Snorting: Heroin can also be ingested by snorting it into the nostrils. Powdered heroin is snorted similar to how someone would snort cocaine. Black tar heroin can be snorted by dissolving the heroin tar with a small amount of water and then snorting the liquid.
Injecting: Heroin is most commonly injected. The majority of heroin addicts tend to inject the drug directly into the vein known as "mainlining". Heroin can also be injected just below the skin's surface known as "skin popping". Additionally, heroin can be injected into the muscle, typically in the shoulder or leg. This is known as "muscling" it.
Typically, a heroin abuser may inject up to four times a day. Intravenous injection provides the greatest intensity and most rapid onset of euphoria (7 to 8 seconds), while intramuscular injection produces a relatively slow onset of euphoria (8 to 15 minutes).
When heroin is sniffed or smoked, peak effects are usually felt within 5 to 10 minutes. Although smoking and sniffing heroin do not produce a "rush" as quickly or as intensely as intravenous injection. NIDA researchers have confirmed that all three forms of heroin administration are addictive.
Injection continues to be the predominant method of heroin use among addicted users seeking treatment; however, researchers have observed a shift in heroin use patterns, from injection to sniffing and smoking. In fact, sniffing/snorting heroin is now the most widely reported means of taking heroin among users admitted for drug treatment in Newark, Chicago, and New York.
With the shift in heroin abuse patterns comes an even more diverse group of users. Older users (over 30) continue to be one of the largest user groups in most national data. However, the increase continues in new, young users across the country who are being lured by inexpensive, high-purity heroin that can be sniffed or smoked instead of injected. Heroin has also been appearing in more affluent communities.