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What Is a Heroin Pipe?

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When it comes to drug addiction, heroin use is one of the most dangerous habits a person can develop. With 13,165 deaths involving heroin reported by The National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2020, it has become one of the deadliest epidemics in the United States and has remained there throughout the decades. Heroin’s euphoric effects on first-time users can cause physical dependence almost immediately and leave them on an endless cycle of chasing a better high, as their tolerance builds. By nature, this process leads to ingesting higher doses and making riskier choices, which can lead to deadly consequences.  While snorting and injecting heroin is commonly known by many, smoking it is an option for users and, with that, comes paraphernalia like heroin pipes. Discovering one in the possession of a loved one is a justifiable cause for concern.

If you or someone you love has shown signs of heroin addiction, Guardian Recovery is available to help. With programs designed to tackle the causes of addiction and individualized recovery counseling to help users find peace from addiction, Guardian can shine a light on the path of recovery and assist those looking for a new start. To find that path for you or someone you love, contact us today.

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Why Would Someone Use a Heroin Pipe?

Heroin, like many other drugs, comes with many assumptions by those who have no history of drug use. The belief is that heroin is injected or maybe snorted. The idea of smoking it, for many, seems foreign.

Heroin typically comes as a powder or a tar-like substance. Either kind can be placed on aluminum foil, heated with a flame, and inhaled through a straw as the vapor is produced. However, pipes are another option for users and can often be used to mix heroin with other drugs.

Another reason smoking is typically done is when the quality of the drug is seen as lower quality. Black tar heroin, for example, is usually smoked due to the difficulty in removing impurities for snorting or injections. It is this lower-quality heroin that can often lead to sudden death or overdose.

In some cases, even those who regularly use heroin in different ways still smoke it on occasion. Research studies have found that users may smoke heroin in order to test it before injection, to test the strength, and try to ensure that they do not overdose. By ingesting a smaller amount through smoking, they can test the strength of the drug before injecting or snorting it.

Are There Side Effects To Smoking Heroin?

Yes. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, smoking may be less risky than injecting, but it is still dangerous and can cause a wide array of side effects. These side effects include:

  • Dry Mouth.
  • Losing Consciousness.
  • Itching.
  • Heaviness in extremities.
  • Flushed or warm skin.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Clouded thinking.
  • Overdose.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Weak pulse.
  • Shallow breathing.
  • Fatigue.
  • Death.

Smoking heroin, much like any smoking, can be harsh on a user’s lungs. Those who do so have reported lung complications including pneumonia, tuberculosis, and respiratory depression. Heroin slows heart rate and overall body functions, often to a near-fatal rate. Doing so, over time, can bring about chronic breathing issues.

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What Does a Heroin Pipe Look Like?

Many heroin pipes are “pipes” in name only. They can look different from one another and be made of a wide range of materials. It’s for this reason that they can be so hard to identify. Common types of pipes used for smoking heroin include:

  • Glass Pipes. Similar to the pipes used for crack cocaine, glass pipes for heroin have the same tube attached to a glass ball appearance. It can also show the same wear one would expect from another type of drug pipe, with burn marks and other damage to the glass.
  • Straws. When heating heroin, users can inhale the smoke through straws. Whether glass or plastic, the process allows the user to take in the fumes directly through the receptacle.
  • Aluminum Cans.
  • Empty Pens.
  • Small glass/plastic tubes (like those sold with small flowers in them at convenience stores).
  • Rolled up money.
  • Discarded foil tubes.

What Are the Slang Names for Heroin Pipes?

As with most drug paraphernalia, heroin pipes are referred to through slang terms. Partly out of convenience and partly out of an attempt to hide their drug usage, those struggling with heroin addiction have names specifically for pipes that may include:

  • Whistle
  • Horn
  • Hammer
  • Piece

As with most drug accessories, slang terms are always coming out and dependent on a person’s location, age, and lifestyle. The most common way to learn a slang term for drug paraphernalia is to put it into context when heard.

Are Heroin Pipes Illegal?

Yes. Heroin pipes of any kind are considered illegal drug paraphernalia under U.S. Code Title 21 Section 863, which states that it is “ unlawful for any person to sell or offer for sale drug paraphernalia; to use the mails or any other facility of interstate commerce to transport drug paraphernalia, or to import or export drug paraphernalia.”

The illegal nature of accessories used for heroin use heightens the risk that the drug brings. For those smoking, injecting, or snorting heroin, the possession of items simply used to ingest the drug can bring on as much trouble as being caught with the drug itself. It is another main reason why finding voluntary recovery is so important before legal issues cause it to become mandatory.

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Guardian Recovery can guide users through addiction and into a new life through compassionate and caring treatment. If treated, heroin addiction is not the end. It is a chance to recover, persevere, and find inner strength. Our programs help those suffering from heroin addiction find that strength and embrace stability. To find out more about our focused and individualized program of heroin addiction recovery, contact us today.


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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.


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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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