Heroin Facts
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Heroin Facts

What is Heroin?
  • Heroin is a highly addictive and rapidly acting opiate (a drug that is derived from opium). Specifically, heroin is produced from morphine, which is a principal component of opium. Opium is a naturally occurring substance that is extracted from the seedpod of the opium poppy.
  • Street heroin is rarely pure. A "bag," or single dose, may contain 50 milligrams of powder. In the past, very few of those milligrams were likely to be heroin. Most of the bag was filled with such additives as milk, sugar, powdered milk, or quinine. In 1980, the average bag was only 4 percent pure heroin. By the mid-Nineties, however, purity was generally 40 percent or higher. In the Northeast, purity commonly ranges between 60 and 75 percent.
  • Heroin is most commonly found as a white or brown powder.
How do people use heroin?
  • Heroin is a highly addictive drug and its use is a serious problem in America. Recent studies suggest a shift from injecting heroin to snorting or smoking because of increased purity and the misconception that these forms of use will not lead to addiction.
  • In some areas, "shabanging" has increased in popularity. This involves picking up cooked heroin with a syringe and squirting it up the nose. Street heroin carries prophetic names: "DOA," "Body Bag," "Instant Death," and "Silence of the Lamb." Rather than scaring off young initiates, the implied danger seems to actually increase the drug's allure.
What are the effects of this drug?
  • The short-term 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 depression of the central nervous system.
  • Chronic users may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, cellulitis, 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.
  • 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.

Heroin Facts
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