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Heroin

Heroin (like opium and morphine) is made from the resin of poppy plants that predominantly grow in South America and, to a lesser extent, Southeast Asia. Milky, sap-like opium is first removed from the pod of the poppy flower and then refined to make morphine. The morphine is refined further into different forms of heroin.

Heroin is most often sold as a white, pink, or brownish powder that has been “cut.” “Cut” means something was used to dilute the heroin, namely sugar, powdered milk, quinine caffeine or other substances. Street heroin is dangerously sometimes “cut” with strychnine or other poisons. The various additives that have been “cut” into the heroin often do not fully dissolve, and when the are injected into the body, can clog the blood vessels that lead to the lungs, kidneys or brain leading to infection or destruction of vital organs.

Heroin bought on the street carries an additional risk: the user never knows the actual strength of the heroin they are buying. Because of this, users are constantly at risk of an overdose.

Street names for heroin include:

Big H

Brown Sugar

H

Hell Dust

Horse

Junk

Nose Drops

Skag

Smack

Thunder

source: drugfreeworld.org

whatisheroinWhat Exactly is Heroin?

Heroin is a highly addictive, illegal drug processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed-pod of poppy plants that predominantly grow in South America and, to a lesser extent, from Southeast Asia. In its purest form, heroin is a fine white powder. It most often sold as a white, pink, or brownish powder that has been “cut.” “Cut” means something was used to dilute the heroin, namely sugar, powdered milk, quinine caffeine or other substances. Street heroin is dangerously sometimes “cut” with strychnine or other poisons.

The various additives that have been “cut” into the heroin often do not fully dissolve, and when the are injected into the body, can clog the blood vessels that lead to the lungs, kidneys or brain leading to infection or destruction of vital organs.

Heroin bought on the street carries an additional risk: the user never knows the actual strength of the heroin they are buying. Because of this, users are constantly at risk of an overdose.

Street names for heroin include:

  • Big H
  • Brown Sugar
  • H
  • Hell Dust
  • Horse
  • Junk
  • Nose Drops
  • Skag
  • Smack
  • Thunder

 

AddictionsAddictions defined:

The American Psychological Association defines addiction as, “…a condition in which the body must have a drug to avoid physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. Addiction’s first stage is dependence, during which the search for a drug dominates an individual’s life. An addict eventually develops tolerance, which forces the person to consume larger and larger doses of the drug to get the same effect.” (Apa.org)

However, addictions—long thought to be solely drug related (an uncontrollable habit of using drugs or alcohol in large amounts)—are manifesting themselves in behavioral areas as well.  For example, some are addicted to gambling, pornography, and even ordinary activities such as exercise or eating.  However, what classifies these and other behaviors as addictions is when people who do these things finds them pleasurable in some way.  There is some controversy about which of the “behavioral” addictions constitute scientifically validated “true” addictions, with both professionals and the public failing to reach an agreement. More time research is needed to clarify this issue.

Although the exact symptoms vary from one addiction to another, there are two aspects that all addictions have in common.  First, the addictive behavior is counter-productive to the individual. So, instead of helping the person adapt to things or overcome problems, the addiction tends to undermine these abilities.  About.com states, “For example, a gambler might wish he had more money –- yet gambling is more likely to drain his financial resources. A heavy drinker might want to cheer herself up –- yet alcohol use contributes to the development of her depression. A sex addict may crave intimacy –- yet the focus on sexual acts may prevent real closeness from developing.”

Next, the behavior is unrelenting.  An addict will continue to engage in addictive behavior, despite it causing negative consequences.  Thus, an occasional weekend of self-indulgence is not defined as an addiction, although it may cause different kinds of problems. Addiction involves more frequent engagement in the behavior.

Many people don’t feel like they struggle with addictions because they enjoy the behaviors they participate in and their lives seem normal and high functioning.  This can be deceiving.  Often people’s addictions become ingrained in their lifestyle, to the point where they never or rarely feel withdrawal symptoms. Or they may not recognize their withdrawal symptoms for what they are, putting them down to aging or working too hard, for example. People can go for years without realizing how dependent they are on their addiction.

People with illicit addictions may enjoy the secretive nature of their behavior.  This is also an addictive characteristic: secrecy.  They may blame society for its narrow-mindedness, choosing to see themselves as free-willed and independent individuals. In reality, addictions tend to limit people’s individuality and freedom as they become more restricted in their behaviors. Imprisonment for engaging in an illegal addiction restricts their freedom even more.

When people are fighting an addiction, their enjoyment often becomes very focused on carrying out the addictive behavior and relieving withdrawal, rather than experiencing the full range of life that forms the person’s full potential for happiness. At some point, the addicted person may realize that life has passed them by, and that they have missed out on enjoying so many other things besides than addiction. This often happens when people become aware, begin seeking help, and overcome their addiction.

About.com also indicates that some people who enjoy their addiction don’t feel like it is a problem if it is not harming anyone.  What the addict doesn’t realize, however, is the negative impact of their addiction not only on themselves, but also on those in their life.

They may be in denial about the negative aspects of their addiction, choosing to ignore the effects on their health, life patterns and relationships. Or they may blame outside circumstances or other people in their lives for their difficulties.

Sometimes, it’s hard to recognize the harm caused by addiction when the addiction is the person’s main way of coping with the other problems they have. Sometimes other problems are directly related to an addiction; for example, health problems, and sometimes they are indirectly related to the addiction, for example, relationship problems.  Some people who get addicted to substances or activities are very aware of their addictions, and even the harms caused by the addiction, but keep doing the addictive behavior anyway. This can be because they don’t feel they can cope without the addiction, because they are avoiding dealing with some other issue that the addiction distracts them from (such as being abused as a child), or because they do not know how to enjoy life any other way.

Often, the harm and negative effects of addiction come to light when the addicted person goes through a crisis. This can happen when the addictive substance or behavior is taken away completely and the person goes into withdrawal and cannot cope. Or, it can occur as a consequence of the addiction, such as a serious illness, a partner leaving, or loss of a job.

Heroin2What is Heroin?

Heroin is a highly addictive drug derived from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seedpod of the Asian poppy plant. It is a “downer” or a depressant that affects the brain’s pleasure systems and interferes with the brain’s ability to perceive pain.  Heroin usually appears as a white or brown powder or a tar-like substance. Street names for heroin include “Big H”, “Black tar”, “Brown sugar”, “Dope”, “Horse”, “Junk”, “Muc”, “Skag”, and “Smac”.  Other names may refer to types of heroin produced in a specific geographical area, such as “Mexican black tar”.  
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. Both new and experienced users risk overdosing on heroin because it is impossible for them to know the purity of the heroin they are using.

Heroin can be used in a variety of ways, depending on preference and the purity of the drug. Heroin can be injected into a vein (“mainlining”), injected into a muscle, smoked in a water pipe or standard pipe, mixed in a marijuana joint or regular cigarette, inhaled as smoke through a straw, known as “chasing the dragon,” snorted as powder via the nose.

The effects of heroin abuse appear soon after a single dose and disappear in a few hours. After an injection of heroin, the user reports feeling a surge of euphoria (“rush”) accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, a dry mouth, and heavy extremities. Following this initial euphoria, the user goes “on the nod,” an alternately wakeful and drowsy state. Mental functioning becomes clouded due to the depression of the central nervous system. Other effects can include slowed and slurred speech, slow gait, constricted pupils, droopy eyelids, impaired night vision, vomiting, and constipation.

Long-term effects of heroin appear after repeated use for some period of time. Chronic users may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, cellulites, and liver disease. Pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia, may result from the poor health condition of the abuser, as well as from heroin’s depressing effects on respiration. In addition to the effects of the drug itself, street heroin may have additives that do not really dissolve and result in clogging the blood vessels that lead to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain. This can cause infection or even death of small patches of cells in vital organs. With regular heroin use, tolerance develops. This means the abuser must use more heroin to achieve the same intensity or effect.

As higher doses are used over time, physical dependence and addiction develop. With physical dependence, the body has adapted to the presence of the drug and withdrawal symptoms may occur if use is reduced or stopped. Withdrawal, which in regular abusers may occur as early as a few hours after the last administration, produces drug craving, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea and vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps (“cold turkey”), kicking movements (“kicking the habit”), and other symptoms. Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last does and subside after about a week. Sudden withdrawal by heavily dependent users who are in poor health can be fatal.

Heroin overdoses can cause slow and shallow breathing, convulsions, coma, and even death.  Heroin is usually injected, sniffed/snorted, or smoked. Typically, a heroin abuser may inject up to four times a day. Intravenous injection provides the greatest intensity and most rapid onset of euphoria (7 to 8 seconds), while intramuscular injection produces a relatively slow onset of euphoria (5 to 8 minutes). When heroin is sniffed or smoked, peak effects are usually felt within 10 to 15 minutes. Although, smoking and sniffing heroin doesn’t usually produce a “rush” as quickly or as intensely as intravenous injection.

Heroin is a highly addictive drug, and its use is a serious problem. It is both the most abused and the most rapidly acting of the opiates.

References include: http://drug-effects.us/what-is-heroin, http://www.drugfree.org/drug-guide/heroin

 

 

A 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that 3.7 million people in the U.S. had used heroin, and 119,000 of those surveyed had used heroin within one month of the survey.  It’s important to be able to spot the signs of heroin abuse, and encourage the person using heroin to immediately seek rehab treatment.

Heroin comes in many forms.Signs of Heroin Abuse

There are many indicators of heroin abuse that can include performance issues (at school and work), withdrawal from family and friends, and even a disregard for personal hygiene and attire.

Other signs of heroin abuse can include:

  • Runny nose and sneezing
  • Lying
  • Theft to support drug habit
  • Apathy toward life and activities
  • Euphoria
  • Depression
  • Constricted pupils
  • Shallow breathing
  • The “empty” stare or gaze

Finding Treatment for the Heroin User

If you suspect or know someone that is suffering from heroin abuse, the first step is to talk to that person (and not fight!) about their addiction, and encourage them to seek help.  A lot of heroin addicts may feel like they’re a lost cause.  Don’t give up!

Many heroin rehab centers can help with this step of intervention, as it’s often the hardest step for many to achieve.  Once the heroin abuse problem has been acknowledged, the user should seek treatment at an accredited and trusted drug rehab facility to help them get clean and sober.

Utah County has some of the lowest rates of substance abuse in the state of Utah and nationally, however, there is still a significant problem.  Methamphetamine addiction is still the most reported primary drug of abuse at admissions and most are for women.  Within the past 5 years, there has been a rise, DOUBLE, for heroin addiction admissions.  Marijuana addiction is still the largest reason for treatment admissions for Utah County youth.

Source:  Utah County Health Department

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