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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

UtahHeroin use on the rise in Utah

Just three weeks ago, on April 4, the FBI released information regarding a heroin bust that occurred in Salt Lake City.  According to the fbi.gov website, “Thirteen arrests were made Wednesday as a part of a federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case targeting the distribution of methamphetamine and heroin in Utah by alleged members of the La Raza gang and their associates.  The individuals are charged in two indictments unsealed Wednesday and Thursday with distribution of methamphetamine and heroin; conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and heroin; possession of methamphetamine and heroin with intent to distribute; and money laundering. During the execution of the arrests and searches Wednesday, law enforcement officers seized approximately 10 pounds of methamphetamine and heroin, seven firearms, eight vehicles, and approximately $175,000 in cash.”

This piece of news is shocking for many who believe Utah to be a family friendly, low crime, safe place to live.  However, as the local news channel, KSL recently reported, heroin use is on the rise and is finding its way into Utah at an alarming rate.  KSL discusses how Utah County, home to BYU, and probably the place most people stereotype as being safe and family friendly, is especially seeing a rise in heroin use.  KSL.com reports that, “According to the Utah Department of Health, 446 Utahns — 80 from Utah County — died from heroin use between 2008 and 2012. And if the amount of heroin being taken off the streets is any indication, use may be on the rise. Lt. Phil Murphy of the Orem Department of Public Safety said there are bags and bag full of heroin piled all over the evidence room table, which has been seized by the Utah County Major Crimes task force.  Murphy said heroin knows no boundaries. Mothers, fathers, business executives, athletes, scholars and even missionaries have all been caught in its grip. He added that heroin can be so powerful one use can hook even the most disciplined among us.  Murphy explained dealers are smuggling heroin any way they can, including inside soles of shoes or car parts. And if smuggling goes undetected by law enforcement, sellers will divvy it up into tiny balloons and distribute the balloons to users for about $15 each.”

Also interesting is the number of heroin related deaths in Utah from 2008-12 by county

  • Salt Lake County – 230
  • Utah – 80
  • Weber – 47
  • Davis – 32
  • Washington – 14
  • Tooele – 11
  • Summit – 7
  • Cache – 5

Source: State of Utah Department of Health

 

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

 

 

Opiates

Opiates

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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