As most people know, heroin is one of the most addictive illicit drugs on the market, as well as being one of the most abused in its class. This morphine derivative comes in many different forms and names, from a sticky black substance called black tar heroin to a white or brown powder known as China White, smack, dope, junk, brown sugar, etc. No matter what form this risky drug is found, it is always classified as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning there is currently no accepted medical use and there is a high potential for abuse. Schedule 1 drugs are the most dangerous of all drugs and can potentially cause severe psychological and/or physical dependence.
What is Heroin?
Heroin is a semi-synthetic drug processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance found in certain seed pods of poppy plants. Acquiring, or “copping,” drugs on the street can result in finding heroin cut with strychnine or other poisons, which poses a risk of overdose for users because potency is hard to gauge in cut heroin. With the many different forms, heroin can be produced in comes many different ways to administer it in the body. Currently, Afghanistan is the biggest provider of heroin, which is where most of the powder heroin in America comes form. The second largest importer, producing the sticky tar, is Mexico. This is why tar heroin is more commonly found in states surrounding Mexico, such as California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado.
Injecting heroin into veins via a needle, otherwise known as “banging”, “mainlining”, or “shooting up”, is one of the most common methods of administration, for users can IV both powder heroin and tar. Smoking, or vaporizing the drug to inhale the fumes, is another standard method of taking in the drug. Smoking heroin is often referred to as “chasing the dragon” and it commonly used with black tar heroin as opposed to powder. The last common method of using heroin is with insufflation. Users will crush the drug into a very fine powder and inhale “lines” of the drug into the nose.
As with most illegal drugs, heroin abuse has both short-term and long-term effects. After immediate use, heroin may cause a “rush,” or an intense, temporary feeling of pleasure. This rush comes from injecting the drug into your veins and is one of the most addictive qualities of the drug. After the initial rush, the body falls into a warm state, and users claim to feel heavy, drowsy, uncoordinated and euphoric. Along with these feelings come dilated pupils, nausea, dry mouth, vomiting and a histamine release that causes severe itching. All opiates, including heroin, induce the parasympathetic nervous system, which will slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure, and slow breathing.
Long Term Heroin Use
With long term use comes many of the terrible side effects that heroin brings. Physically, the drug can cause respiratory illnesses, muscular weakness, sexual dysfunctions, memory loss and lowered mental performance, depression, loss of appetite, insomnia, pustules on the face, and tooth and gum problems. More serious problems can include collapsed veins from continual IV usage, infections of the blood vessels from reusing dirty needles, arthritis and possibly tuberculosis from general poor body condition. Sharing needles with others can lead to users acquiring contagious diseases too, such as AIDs or Hepatitis. According to drugfreeworld.org, over 70% of the 35,000 new cases of Hepatitis C2 are caused by drug users using needles.
Heroin and Addiction to Heroin
But, one of the most detrimental effects of long-term heroin use is addiction itself. Physical dependence is built very quickly with high doses of the drug and the body adapts to the constant presence of the drug. When long-term users go without for even a short of time, withdrawal symptoms set in. During withdrawal, one may feel restless, muscle and bone pain, vomiting, diarrhea, cold flashes, goose bumps and muscle constriction. Symptoms peak during the first few days absent of the drug and are usually gone after about a week. Heroin withdrawal is described as one of the more difficult drugs to withdraw from because the physical symptoms are so extreme. But the most dangerous part of heroin addiction is the psychological addiction is causes. Many users describe heroin as one of the best feelings, meaning everything aside from that is dull in comparison. Because that tolerance is rapidly built, users need more of the drug to obtain that initial euphoria they experienced. So even though withdrawal may only last a week for the body will be completely void of drug, the it takes a very long time for the mind will stop craving that euphoria and many people relapse multiple times.
According to the Center for Disease Control, teenage use of heroin is continuing to decline. The number of teenagers reporting to have used heroin in their lifetime has dropped from 3.1% to 2.4% since 2001. Although this isn’t due to availability because 29.7% of high school seniors report that they can easily find heroin if they wished to. Unfortunately, college student and young adult usage is on the rise, college students increasing from 0.1% to 0.2% and young adults increasing from 1.7% to 1.9%. Through proper education, heroin dependence will hopefully decrease in the next few years. The CDC claims that 87.8% of high school seniors view using heroin as a “significant risk,” meaning our education on drug use and misuse has increase in effectiveness. Even though heroin usage is not widespread, the effects and risks involved is a huge threat. Not only can one ruin their own life and body, but the effects drug addiction has on families is too great to risk.