Heroin

Heroin

Heroin is a highly addictive drug and is the most widely abused and most rapidly acting of the opiates. Heroin is processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of certain varieties of poppy plants.

 

Pure heroin, which is a white powder with a bitter taste, is rarely sold on the streets. Most illicit heroin is a powder varying in colour from white to dark brown. The differences in colour are due to impurities left from the manufacturing process or the presence of additives. This heroin, which is produced in Mexico, may be sticky like roofing tar or hard like coal, with its colour varying from dark brown to black.

 

Heroin can be injected, smoked, or sniffed/snorted. Injection is the most efficient way to administer low-purity heroin. The availability of high-purity heroin, however, and the fear of infection by sharing needles has made snorting and smoking the drug more common. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) researchers have confirmed that all forms of heroin administration are addictive

 

Health Effects

 

The short-term effects of heroin abuse appear soon after taking the drug. Intravenous injection provides the greatest intensity and most rapid onset of the initial rush that users experience. Intravenous users typically experience the rush within 7 to 8 seconds after injection, while intramuscular injection produces a slower onset of this euphoric feeling, taking 5 to 8 minutes. When heroin is sniffed or smoked, the peak effects of the drug are usually felt within 10 to 15 minutes.

 

In addition to the initial feeling of euphoria, the short-term effects of heroin include a warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth, and heavy extremities. After the initial euphoric feeling, the user experiences an alternately wakeful and drowsy state. Due to the depression of the central nervous system, mental functioning becomes clouded. Additionally, breathing may be slowed to the point of respiratory failure.

After repeatedly using heroin for a period of time, the long-term effects of the substance begin to appear in the user. Chronic users may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, and liver disease. Additionally, pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia, may also result in the user.

 

One of the most significant effects of heroin use is addiction. With regular heroin use, tolerance to the drug develops. Once this happens, the abuser must use more heroin to achieve the same intensity or effect that they are seeking. As higher doses of the drug are used over time, physical dependence and addiction to the drug develop.

 

Within a few hours after the last administration of heroin, withdrawal may occur. This withdrawal can produce effects such as drug craving, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, and vomiting. Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose and subside after about a week.

 

In addition to the effects of the drug itself, users who inject heroin also put themselves at risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis C (HCV), and other infectious diseases. Approximately 70–80% of the new HCV infections in the U.S.each year are among injection drug users.

 

Street heroin is often mixed with various substances, including sugar, starch, quinine, and sometimes, strychnine or other poisons, causing an added danger to using heroin. Because heroin abusers do not know the actual strength of the drug or its true contents, they are at a great risk of overdose or death.

 

Common Terms Associated with Heroin

 

Term         

Definition

A-bomb

Marijuana mixed w/heroin

Big H

Heroin

Dragon rock

Heroin mixed w/cocaine

Hell dust

Heroin

Nose drops

Liquefied heroin

Smack

Heroin