Overview On Heroin
Heroin goes by many names: Big H, Brown, Sugar, H, Hell Dust, Horse, Junk, Nose Drops, Skag, Smack, Thunder, Tar, Black, and Boy. All of these are essentially the same thing though, heroin. An opioid, or painkiller, drug.
Heroin is typically taken intravenously through the use of needles, although it can be snorted or smoked. It is derived from morphine, and typically is in a white or brown powder form. Occasionally, it is a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin.
Many side effects can be seen, but most recently the main side effects that have caused panic have been death and the spread of disease. This has caused many local and state governments to start making laws to encourage users to get help, or at least use clean needles.
A Brief History On Heroin
Heroin was first synthesized in 1874 by C. R. Alder Wright. Wright was an English chemist working at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London. This didn’t lead to much until 1897, when it was remade by Bayer Pharmaceutical Company in Germany.
What they created was a morphine-like drug that was one and a half to two times more powerful than morphine. From then until 1910, heroin was marketed as a cough suppressant and non-addictive morphine substitute.
By 1914, heroin had to be prescribed and sold for medical uses only. This didn’t last long though, as by 1924 the United States Congress banned its sale, importation, or manufacture and labeled it a Schedule I substance.
A Schedule I substance, by the way, is any substance deemed to meet three particular findings. They are: A. The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse. B. The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. C. There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.
So, just a little warning: when a new product comes out claiming to be a safe alternative to something else that is extremely bad or addictive for you, buyer beware.
The Effects Of Heroin
The immediate effects of heroin will be an intense rush accompanied by a warm feeling and a dry mouth. Initially, users feel itchy or possibly vomit. Once these effects begin to go away, the user will feel drowsy as heartbeat and breathing slow down.
According to one user of heroin, the effects are like “getting as drunk as you possibly can, then lying back in a pool that is somewhat warm.” The immediate effects of heroin are:
- Initial rush
- Slowed breathing
- Clouded mental functioning
- Coma or death (from overdose)
Once the person using the heroin starts to come off the drug, they will immediately have a want for more. In most cases, they will in fact repeat use. Once this has occurred, an addiction is more than likely formed.
This chronic use of heroin can be very detrimental. Continued use can have a user experience collapsed veins, and infections to the blood vessels and heart. The sharing of needles can also lead to many negative effects.
Sharing needles can lead to spreading HIV and Hepatitis. At least 35,000 new cases of Hepatitis C happen every year, 70% of which is from the sharing of needles. Long-term effects from using heroin can also be quite terrifying.
- Gum and tooth degradation
- Weakening of the immune system
- Menstrual disturbance in women
- Inflammation of the gums
- Muscular weakness, partial paralysis
- Loss of memory and intellectual performance
- Respiratory (breathing) illnesses
- Cold sweats
- Reduced sexual capacity and long-term impotence in men
- Pustules on the face
- Inability to achieve orgasm (women and men)
- Loss of appetite
Symptoms of withdrawal from heroin can present its own challenges. Quitting cold-turkey is not recommended, as some of the symptoms of withdrawal can be quite deadly. They are also so averse that it may lead to relapse just to stop the symptoms.
- General feeling of heaviness
- Excessive sneezing or yawning
- Watery Eyes
- Cold sweats
- Involuntary Spasms
- Severe muscle and bone ache
- In females, sensitivity to the genitals
Death is a very real possibility in both the use of heroin and when withdrawing from it. Often times, death is not from the drug in and of itself, but rather from the effects of the drug. Because it slows down your breathing already, it could cause you to not be getting enough oxygen at all.
This could cause brain death. Even if you live, you will still have permanent damage. Another way that death can occur from heroin or its withdrawal is by suffocation. This usually occurs when you vomit and are laying on your back. When this happens, you can choke and die on your own vomit.
Symptoms of withdrawal can be expected to start within 6 to 24 hours after your last use. The time it takes before symptoms show up, and how long they last, all depend on several factors. Most notably are how often you use, how much you use, your tolerance, and your overall physical health.
Overdosing is more likely to occur when someone has tried to quit cold-turkey, and then goes back to using heroin. When they go to use again, they often use an amount that is as big as or bigger than the one they had used last.
This is a common mistake, as their body no longer has the same tolerance level as before. This immediately causes an overdose in most cases, where the person will slip into a coma and die. If that doesn’t kill them, usually the choking does.
Heroin Is A Silent Killer That Leaves A Big Bang
In the last ten years alone, heroin use has more than doubled. A study found that from 2002 to 2012, heroin users went from 214,000 to 467,000. These are just conservative estimates though. In 2012, at least 669,000 people used heroin that year.
As for deaths, those numbers continue to maintain or climb as well. From 2010 to 2012 alone, death rates rose from 1 in 100,000 to over 2.1 in every 100,000 people. These are just the deaths from overdose though.
Many more deaths are expected to occur from the use of heroin. These are the people whose health was deteriorated from heroin, or who developed diseases like HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis from the sharing of needles.
Many states and local governments have begun needle exchange programs. These are to help prevent the spread of disease by taking your used needles and providing clean safe ones to users. Some states have even begun programs to allow purchase of needles from pharmacies without a prescription.
States With Needle Exchange Programs For Heroin And Other Injection Users:
- New Mexico
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
- New York
- North Carolina
- District of Columbia
- Puerto Rico
All of these places have one or more facilities that do needle exchanges. This is just a step though. The real goal is to end the addiction to heroin altogether. If you or someone you know has an addiction to heroin, please call now for help. Every dose could be the last dose.