Heroin is an illegal, highly addictive drug. It is both the most abused and the 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. It is typically sold as a white or brownish powder or as the black sticky substance known on the streets as “black tar heroin.” Although purer heroin is becoming more common, most street heroin is “cut” with other drugs or with substances such as sugar, starch, powdered milk or quinine. Street heroin can also be cut with strychnine or other poisons. Because heroin addicts do not know the actual strength of the drug or its true contents, they are at risk of overdose or death. Heroin also poses special problems because of the transmission of HIV and other diseases that can occur from sharing needles or other injection equipment.
In the United States during 1999, there were 104,000 new heroin users. In 2000, approximately 1.2% of the population reported heroin use at least once in their lifetime. Heroin is also known as smack, thunder, hell dust, big H, nose drops and many other names. Pure heroin is a white powder with a bitter taste and varies in color from white to dark brown.”Black tar” heroin is sticky like roofing tar or hard like coal, and its color may vary from dark brown to black. Heroin is used by injecting, smoking and snorting.
One of the most significant effects of heroin abuse is an addiction to heroin. Once tolerance happens, higher doses become necessary to achieve the desired effect and physical dependence develops. Chronic use may cause collapsed veins, infection of heart lining and valves, abscesses, liver disease, pulmonary complications and various types of pneumonia. Heroin may also cause depression of the central nervous system, cloudy mental functioning and slowed breathing to the point of respiratory failure. Read more on Signs of Heroin Abuse.
Heroin overdose may cause slow and shallow breathing, convulsions, coma and possibly death.
Heroin, HIV, Hepatitis and Others
Heroin addicts and users put themselves at risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis B and C and other viruses. A heroin addict may become infected with HIV, hepatitis C and other blood-borne pathogens through sharing and reuse of syringes and injection paraphernalia that have been used by infected individuals. They may also become infected with HIV and, although less often, to hepatitis C through unprotected sexual contact with an infected person. Injection drug use has been a factor in an estimated one-third of all HIV and more than half of all hepatitis C cases in the Nation.
NIDA-funded research has found that drug abusers can change the behaviors that put them at risk for contracting HIV through heroin detox and rehabilitation, prevention and community-based outreach programs. They can eliminate drug use and drug-related risk behaviors such as needle sharing, unsafe sexual practices, and, in turn, the risk of exposure to HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases. Drug abuse prevention and treatment are highly effective in preventing the spread of HIV.
If you or someone you love has an addiction to heroin and your seeking the best help available contact us immediately. Our counselors can help you get started with a heroin detox and rehabilitation program and heading towards a drug free life.