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


Hell Dust



Nose Drops




source: drugfreeworld.org



What are opiates?

When asked this questions most of us think of poppy flowers, poppy seeds, Asia, or more recently, the drug heroin.  In researching what opiates really are, I came across an article written for teens describing them.  It was basic, very informative, and helped my understanding expand.  It was on the site http://teens.drugabuse.gov.  It states,” If you’ve ever seen “The Wizard of Oz,” then you’ve seen the poppy plant—the source of a type of drug called an opiate. When Dorothy lies down in a field of poppies, she falls into a deep sleep. No wonder the Latin name of this plant—Papaver somniferum—means ‘the poppy that makes you sleepy.’”

So, how do opiates work? 

Opiates act on many places in the brain and nervous system, including:

The limbic system (which controls emotions), the brainstem, which controls things your body does automatically, like breathing, and the spinal cord, which transmits sensations from the body.

In the limbic system, opiates can produce feelings of pleasure, relaxation, and contentment, opiates can act on the brainstem to slow breathing, stop coughing, and lessen feelings of pain, and opiates act in the spinal cord to decrease feelings of pain, even following serious injuries.

Whether it is a medication like Vicodin or a street drug like heroin, the effects of opiates (and many other drugs) depend on how much you take and how you take it. If opiates are swallowed as pills, they take longer to reach the brain. If they are injected, they act faster and can produce a quick, intense feeling of pleasure followed by a sense of well-being and a calm drowsiness.

Basically, just like any other drug, opiates have an important purpose in medicine.  However, when abused, opiates are highly addictive and can create difficult withdrawal symptoms and Dorothy (being healthy) should have run as fast as she could down the yellow brick road away from them!

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.

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