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Heroin

What is heroin?

Heroin is a highly addictive drug derived from morphine, which in turn is derived from raw opium (the dried sap of opium poppy). In its pure form, heroin appears as a white powder with a bitter taste. However, heroin sold in streets can appear as off-white to brown powder, or as black sticky goo. Heroin has a chemical formula C21H23NO5 but is also known by names such as smack, H, skag, junk, brown sugar, horse, and black tar. Almost all heroin sold today are made illegally in clandestine laboratories.

To make heroin, dried opium sap pieces are first boiled in water with lime to precipitate morphine at the top. This morphine is then drawn off, reheated with ammonia and filtered and boiled again. This process yields heroin that appears as a brown paste.

In the medical sense, heroin is called diamorphine or diacetylmorphine. Heroin is taken into the body via injection (most common, with almost instant effects), smoking and snorting, and less commonly, by oral consumption. Heroin is highly addictive and is therefore illegal in many countries. When people take it even for a short period of time, a strong need for heroin is quickly developed and long term heroin addiction treatment is needed. But what makes heroin so addictive? And why it is illegal in many places?

Heroin effects

Heroin is a strong opioid analgesic, like morphine. Heroin is considered a potent depressant because it reduces sensation of pain (anesthesia) and also slows breathing, lowers the heartbeat and blood pressure. What happens for heroin to take effect on the body?

When heroin is abused, it is transformed into morphine and goes straight to the brain in a very short span of time. However, unlike morphine, heroin has a markedly addictive effect after first few uses. Why? Because heroin effects include euphoria, an intense sense of well being.

In fact, heroin users feel a sense of relaxation plus intense acute euphoria (termed a ‘rush’) soon after administration of the drug. This rush may also be accompanied by flushing of skin, dry mouth with nausea, vomiting and severe itching. This rush lasts only for a short time, after which then it quickly subsides. To feel high again, the user must again take heroin, sometimes at a larger dose to overcome tolerance.

Another effect of heroin use is increased tolerance. Generally, heroin use causes tolerance quickly, which means you need to increase successive doses taken just to feel the same effect. Among habit-forming drugs, heroin is one of the most addictive. First time users of heroin can easily get addicted to it in a short period of time.

Heroin overdose

Heroin overdose is a medical emergency which happens when large amounts of heroin are suddenly introduced in the body. Injecting heroin makes you most susceptible to overdose because this method of delivery travels to and crosses the blood-brain barrier almost instantly. In the event of overdose, heroin sends the nervous system into delirium, disorientation and coma.

A person experiencing heroin overdose may manifest symptoms such as:

  • bluish fingernails
  • coma
  • constipation
  • discolored tongue
  • disorientation and delirium
  • drowsiness
  • dry mouth
  • pinpoint pupils
  • shallow or no breathing, or slow and difficult breathing
  • snoring
  • weak pulse, and low blood pressure

Heroin overdose is always a potential threat to life, and therefore must be addressed as soon as possible. When heroin overdose is suspected, you should call your local emergency phone hotline or national poison control center.

A person who you suspect is experiencing heroin overdose must be kept constantly awake, or must be awakened from sleep. Nothing should be put into their mouth due to risk of choking. If seizures occur, do not restrain the victim; move things away to prevent injury. Always stay with the victim until medical help arrives.

For more info on heroin’s addictive properties and treatment, see:

Heroin

4 Heroin rehabilitation: How long?

Heroin rehabilitation: How long?

August 7th, 2017

A review of heroin treatment program lengths. We discuss ideal treatment length for heroin problems. Plus, what you can expect during the process.

21 Smoking heroin

Smoking heroin

May 11th, 2017

Smoking heroin delivers the opiate from the lungs to the arteries. Then, it travel through the bloodstream and goes directly to the user’s brain. Read more about effects of smoking heroin and how it affects the brain. More here

6 Heroin effects

Heroin effects

March 27th, 2017

Serious problems manifest in the brain and body of heroin users. The immune system is in danger, plus heart and respiratory complications are common. More on the effects of heroin here.

12 The Heroin Withdrawal Timeline Chart

The Heroin Withdrawal Timeline Chart

March 22nd, 2017

The GUIDE TO HEROIN WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS. More on duration of symptoms and what to expect, when. A visual guide here.

4 Rehab heroin addiction: When to choose inpatient vs. outpatient

Rehab heroin addiction: When to choose inpatient vs. outpatient

March 9th, 2017

Addicted to heroin? Here we discuss the treatment options for heroin. This can help you make a decision between inpatient or outpatient treatment settings. Find the best suitable option for your heroin addiction. Read more here.

2 Heroin Hotline

Heroin Hotline

February 13th, 2017

Need heroin help? Learn how to GET HELP NOW. And know what to expect when you call a heroin addiction helpline…more tools on preparing for the call here.

2 The face of heroin addiction: Who uses heroin? (INFOGRAPHIC)

The face of heroin addiction: Who uses heroin? (INFOGRAPHIC)

January 25th, 2017

How many people in the U.S. use heroin and what are their demographics? Check out this infographic to learn more about the face of heroin addiction as well as the risks and dangers that parallel increase in heroin use trends.

1 The Opiate Crisis and the Hidden Costs of Addiction

The Opiate Crisis and the Hidden Costs of Addiction

January 5th, 2017

What’s really going on with opiates, opioids, and Rx painkillers in the U.S.? Expert Warren Rivera – a former DEA Special Agent with years of experience in drug diversion – explores here.

1 What does a good heroin addiction treatment look like?

What does a good heroin addiction treatment look like?

December 31st, 2016

How can you know good addiction treatment from the bad? More here on the basics of heroin addiction treatment: assessment, help through detox, medical supervision, effective aftercare AND the individualized human element behind care.

Can you overdose (OD) on heroin?

Can you overdose (OD) on heroin?

December 24th, 2016

Heroin addicts and even first time users are equally exposed to the risk of overdose. Read more on the effects of heroin overdose and find out how much heroin is too much, here.

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6 Responses to “Heroin
Steven
3:10 am August 27th, 2016

My son is a heroin addict and I have learned more about drugs and drug addiction over the last several year than I ever thought possible. I do, however, have one question I haven’t been able to find an answer for. What causes the blood spatter I find on the walls and even some ceilings? Can you help me? Thanks

Melissa
5:56 pm February 7th, 2017

It’s been a while since you posted your question, and I hope you have recived an answer by now, if not here is my theory.
I am a Phlebotomist (draw blood) by trade and in my experience the only time blood may splatter on wall or as high as the ceiling would be if the IV user removed the needle prior to releasing the tourniquet. I can imagine that this may occur if the person is ‘passing out’ after injection and the needle falls out, which can happen with the pressure built up in the users vein. Some people are just good bleeders, I have pricked a finger for a capillary test and the blood arched several feet into the air, so I could see this occurring with an untrained professional as well.
I hope your son gets/got the help he needs, and that you are able to see your way through this addiction.

Brooklyn
10:24 pm March 12th, 2017

I am a recovering heroin addict and it may be him doing when he is cleaning his needle with water and he may just be spraying it anywhere unfortunately

andrew
6:46 pm May 18th, 2017

Heroin after injection is turned rapidly in 6-Monoacetylmorphine which gives users that rush. The former metabolite is then turned into morphine after first pass metabolism.

joe
2:15 pm July 19th, 2017

I was a pretty heavy skin popper on herion for about 4 months. I had stopped using 14 days to 16 days before my doctor did a urine test. do you think it will show up in my urine?

Luis
10:34 am July 29th, 2017

@steven I do the same thing and my father gets mad sometimes after I shoot up in my bathroom I draw up water to clean out the syringe and carelessly spray it anywhere, or sometimes when the syringe gets clogged by coagulated blood I push the plunger down really really hard and the blood squirts everywhere. Im almost 100 percent sure this is the reason you find blood splAtters on the ceiling and walls

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