Skip to Content
drug information

Heroin and opiates

Heroin is in the opiate group of drugs. It is a highly addicitve drug and there is significant risk of overdose. The prevalance of heroin in New Zealand is relatively low. It is estimated that heroin costs $1000 per gram in New Zealand, significantly more expensive than other countries.

  1. What it is

    Heroin is one of a group of drugs called ‘opiates’. Other opiate drugs include opium, morphine, pethidine, codeine, oxycodone, methadone and buprenorphine.

  2. Health effects

    Short-term effects

    When injected, the initial ‘rush’ associated with opiate use is often described as a strong euphoric wave, with a sense of physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. This sensation is very psychologically addictive.

  3. Dependence, addiction and overdose risk

    Dependence and addiction

    Opiate drugs are both physically and psychologically addictive. Therefore a person who stops or reduces the amount they use may suffer withdrawal symptoms which include:

  4. Law and penalties

    Heroin is classified as a Class A drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, attracting a maximum term of life imprisonment for importing, manufacturing and/or supplying. Possession carries a six month imprisonment term and/or $1000 fine.

  5. Drug trends

    Opiates are used by a relatively small proportion of the population in New Zealand. Recent surveys indicate that the rate of opiate use is stable.

  6. Reducing the harm

    The Drug Foundation’s message is clear: no drug use is the safest drug use. However, we know there will be occasions when people ignore warnings and use drugs in a dangerous manner. To help keep communities safe we therefore provide information about proven methods of drug harm reduction.

  7. How to get help

    If you feel you or anyone you know needs help, there are a number of treatment organisations you can contact in strict confidence.

  8. Links

    A list of relevant links to further information and resources about heroin and opiates: