What Is Heroin?
Heroin is a highly addictive drug that is made from a natural substance known as morphine, gotten from the seed pod of the opium poppy plants grown in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Colombia and Mexico. In its purest form, it is often a white powder but has come in less pure forms like brown powder, or a black sticky substance called black tar heroin. Heroin can often be associated with other regular names like horse, big H, smack, and hell dust.
Heroin is a potent opiate that has an intense effect on the brain reward system. The drug influences the production of feel-good chemicals like dopamine and endorphins in the brain.
How do people use Heroin?
Heroin can be used in more than one way which includes smoking, snorting, sniffing, or injecting into the veins. It can also be mixed with crack cocaine –act users refer to as speedballing. Heroin does not discriminate between users. It has the same effect on people from all walks of life. Statistics have it that about 4 million Americans have used heroin at least once.
What Effects does heroin have on its users?
Once injected, users, feel a euphoric surge. Heroin quickly enters the brain, binding to opium receptors on cells located in areas involved in certain feelings like pain and pleasure, sleeping, breathing, and heart rate control.
Their mouths become dry while their arms and legs feel rubbery and heavy. They usually experience dulled emotions and a slackened mental capacity. The effect of this drug lasts about 3 to 4 hours after administering each dose.
In addition, heroin often comes with additives such as starch, sugar, or powdered milk. When these additives fail to dissolve, they can clog the blood vessels that lead to the lungs, kidney, liver or brain, resulting in permanent damage of patches of cells in these vital organs.
Users also risk a chance of contracting infectious diseases like Hepatitis and HIV when they share drug injection equipment.
Aside from the “rush” users feel from taking heroin, the drug generally comes with short and long-term effects. Some of the short-term effects include dry mouth, heavy arms and legs, nausea and vomiting, severe itching, diminished mental functioning, nodding back and forth (a state of consciousness and semi-consciousness), and warm flushing on the skin.
The long-term effects, on the other hand, include insomnia, liver and kidney disease, abscesses (swollen tissue filled with pus), infection of the heart lining and valves, sexual dysfunction (for men), abnormal menstrual cycles (for women), constipation and stomach cramps, collapsed veins for those who inject, complication of the lungs (including pneumonia), damaged nose tissue for individuals that sniff the drug.
When can one be said to be addicted to heroin?
Regular use of heroin will result in a tolerance to the drug. A tolerance means that it will require higher doses to get the same level of intensity to the user. Heroin addicts experience “withdrawal” when they stop using the drug. This can begin in just a few hours after the drug was last administered. Symptoms of withdrawal include restlessness, insomnia, diarrhea and vomiting, heroin craving, muscle and bone problems, uncontrollable kicking movements, and cold flashes with goose bumps.
Are there treatment options for Heroin?
A variety of treatments including medical and behavioral therapies can help stop heroin use. Medications include Methadone, Buprenorphine, and Naloxone.
Behavioral treatment options include residential and outpatient care, as well as motivational incentives such as cash rewards. A combination of both therapies will help reduce user dependency on heroin.