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In the past twenty years heroin use has grown dramatically. Psychoactive

drugs have become the young person’s largest problem to face. Drugs have

become a part of even the most stereotypically normal family’s life. No

workplace, home, or school can be completely “drug proofed”. To live with

these drugs one must learn about them. Not knowing the facts about heroin

will ultimately lead to the drugs winning the game.

What is heroin?

Heroin is an opiate, which comes from the opium poppy. When the

opium poppy dies, a white substance is left. This substance hardens and

turns brown, becoming opium (Smith, 13). Heroin was created to treat

morphine addiction for men coming home from WWI. Only until it was too

late was heroin discovered to be more destructive than morphine.

What happens after a person uses heroin?

Heroin is an opiate or a downer that affects the brain’s pleasure and

pain systems. Heroin interferes with the brain’s ability to perceive pain and

page 1

activates the brain’s pleasure system. Heroin is a fast-acting drug, especially

when injected or smoked. Injected heroin reaches the brain in 15-30

seconds; smoked heroin reaches the brain in 7 seconds.

How many people use heroin?

It is extremely difficult to estimate how many people use heroin.

There is agreement among epidemiologists that heroin is the most under-

reported drug in terms of usage and that any usage statistics are unreliable.

Estimates range from 428,000 past-year heroin users (National Household

Survey, 1995) to 600,000 past week heroin users (Office of National Drug

Control Policy). On the other hand, some experts estimate that as many as

two to three million people in the United States use heroin recreationally.

How does heroin become addictive?

Once a person begins using heroin, he or she quickly develops a

tolerance to the drug and needs more and more to get the same effects

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(Zackon, 45). Within one month, a new user might need much more than

his/her initial dose to get high. Many heroin addicts have intense cravings

for heroin but find it takes more and more heroin to get high. A regular dose

may simply result in reduction of the extreme discomfort associated with

withdrawal –getting straight or being not sick– but does not lead to the good

feelings of being high. Many users switch to injection as a more economical

way of use. It takes less injected heroin than smoked or snorted heroin to

achieve the same effects (Anonymous, 76). Heroin is psychologically and

physically addictive. The acute physical withdrawal is grueling and lasts up

to 72 hours. During this time, symptoms include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea,

cramping, and severe shaking. It can take months or even years to recover

from the physical addiction, and fighting the psychological addiction is a

lifetime battle. During this “protracted” withdrawal, recovering addicts battle

cravings and depression (Anonymous, 75).

What are some names for heroin?

Heroin is referred to as smack, horse, mud, black tar, Mexican mud,

china white, big H, junk, skag, *censored*, ‘H’, brown, harry, boy, dope, brown

sugar among many others (Washburne, 61).

page 3

How can you tell someone is using heroin?

Heroin users can be identified by many means: slow and slurred

speech, constricted pupils, droopy eyelids, impaired night vision, dry skin,

itching, skin infections, vomiting (at first use, and later at high doses), and

“nodding off” (at very high doses) (Washburne, 70). If anyone is found in

this state it is imperative to seek help from a methadone clinic or other forms

of addiction help.

Half gram bag

What affects does heroin have on the mind and body?

Along with the false euphoria heroin produces there are many short

term and long term affects. A few short term affects are: decreased sexual

pleasure, indifference to sex, sedation proceeding to coma, menstrual

irregularity, slow irregular heart rate, irregular blood pressure, reduced

appetite, and constipation. Long-term affects include: can impair immune

system, soft tissues in certain involuntary muscles (such as the intestines)

page 4

relax to the point of not working (Zackon, 66), HIV infection from injection,

and death from overdose.

Why is heroin appealing?

Heroin causes false senses of euphoria. The natural high humans get

from extraneous workout is produced from endorphins. Heroin causes the

glands that create endorphins to pump out extra amounts that human bodies

can not handle. The euphoric feeling is produced when the connection of the

drug and nerve cells are made (Mendelson, 66). Most heroin addicts have a

feeling of inadequacy and low self esteem (Mendelson, 89). The process of

finding, scoring, and doing heroin is the false sense of success that junkies

need (Smith, 25).

What is Heroin Withdrawal Like?

Heroin and other opiate withdrawal symptoms are extremely

uncomfortable, but are not likely to be fatal or lead to permanent injury

(Washburne, 63). The symptoms occur because there is no longer enough

opiate present to cause a pleasurable, or even a normal feeling. The

symptoms usually begin four to twelve hours after the last dose. The

page 5

symptoms typically reach their peak in thirty-six to seventy-two hours. Early

symptoms include: “goose flesh”, hot and cold flashes, runny nose, diarrhea,

abdominal cramps, pain and spasm, joint aching, insomnia, malaise (”feels

like the flu”), yawning, irritability, and sweating.

The intensity of the symptoms vary directly with the dose and

duration of use of the drug. These acute symptoms are usually greatly

improved by the fifth day and are largely gone by seven to ten days. (This is

true for heroin but may vary somewhat with other opiates such as

methadone where the symptoms tend to come on later and last longer.). This

acute withdrawal is followed by a “protracted abstinence syndrome” from

about week four to week ten or longer. It consists of a mild increase in blood

pressure, restlessness, restless sleep, irritability, and craving for the drug.

The Law

It is illegal to supply or possess opioids without a prescription, or to

produce, import or export them without authority. It is also an offence to

allow premises to be used for supplying or producing them. Heroin,

morphine, opium, methadone, dipapanone and pethidine are Class A drugs.

Codeine and dihydrocodeine (DF118) are Class B drugs unless they are

page 6

prepared for injection when they become Class A drugs.

Sources Cited

Anonymous. “Heroin Horrors: Hard Drugs, Hard Realities.” Teen: October,

1997m 75- 76.

Drug Abuse Carolyn Kott Washburne. 1997, San Diego: Lucent Books.

Heroin Sandra Lee Smith. 1991, New York: The Rosen Publishing Group

Heroin: The Street Narcotic Jack Mendelson, M.D. & Nancy Mello, Ph.D. 1986, New York: Chelsea House Publishers

Methadone Jack Mendelson, M.D. & Nancy Mello, Ph.D. 1985, New York: Chelsea House Pusblishers

Heroin Fred Zackon, M. Ed. 1986, New York: Chelsea House Publishers

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