Heroin

Street Names:

"Smack," "skag," "boy," "junk," "H," "Dugi," "horse," "China White," "mud," "brown sugar," and "dope"

"Throughout my freshman year of high school I experimented with other drugs and was introduced to heroin. I began to use it occasionally and it quickly progressed from a weekend occurrence, to every couple of days, to daily use. I continued to smoke pot and drink on a regular basis but heroin became my drug of choice." Emptiness In My Soul (Click for the complete story.)

Chemical Composition:

Heroin is a white powder that is synthetically produced from morphine. Morphine is a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of poppy plants.

Pure heroin is white and has a bitter taste. However, most illicit heroin varies in color from white to dark brown due to processing and the presence of additives. Pure heroin is rarely sold on the streets. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration the purity of the heroin on the street ranges from 10 to 70 percent. Heroin can be "cut" (diluted) with sugars, starch, powdered milk or quinine.

"Black tar" heroin is produced in Mexico and may be sticky like roofing tar or hard like coal. It is dark brown to black.

 

Characteristics:

Heroin is highly addictive. Tolerance builds and more of the drug is required to achieve the same intensity. Withdrawal may occur within a few hours after the last use.

Withdrawal can produce drug cravings, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, and vomiting. Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose and subside after about a week.

Methods of Use:

Heroin is injected, sniffed or smoked. The availability of high-purity heroin and the fear of injecting have made snorting and smoking practical alternatives.

Heroin is injected either intravenously, subcutaneously (skin-popping), or intramuscularly.

Intravenous injection provides the most intense and rapid rush, 7 to 8 seconds. Intramuscular injection requires 5 to 8 minutes to peak and sniffed or smoked heroin takes 10 to 15 minutes.

The initial euphoric feeling is followed by drowsiness.

"Black tar" heroin is most frequently dissolved, diluted and injected.

"I started by snorting it. But as my tolerance increased I progressed to shooting it. In the beginning $10 or $20 would be enough for a couple of days and in the end $150 a day wasn't enough. It got to the point where I would be "dopesick" after about three hours. Once I was "dopesick," I would do anything to get more heroin." Emptiness In My Soul (Click for the complete story.)

Risks:

The potency of street heroin is rarely known and overdoses often result.

Overdoses may cause slow and shallow breathing, convulsions, coma and possibly death.

Heroin depresses the central nervous system. Mental functioning becomes clouded. Speech is slowed and slurred. Eyelids droop and pupils constrict.

Use can cause collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, liver damage and pulmonary complications.

Users who inject heroin risk contracting HIV, hepatitis B and C, and other blood-borne viruses.

"Deep down, I struggled to find answers to all the questions that I wanted to ask him. Why did you leave me and Mom? Wasn't I good enough? Did you hate me? Why did you choose a needle full of heroin over your wife and daughter? Then one day I was walking in from school and I heard my Mom crying on the phone. She waved me over and patted the seat next to her. My heart raced as she hung up the phone. 'I am so sorry,' she said. 'Your father died two weeks ago of a heroin overdose.' "My Father Was An Addict (Click for the complete story.)


Sources:

"Heroin"
Drug Facts
Executive Office of the President
Office of National Drug Control Policy
Washington, D.C.
www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov

"Heroin"
DEA - Publication: Drugs of Abuse
Drug Enforcement Administration
U.S. Department of Justice
www.dea.gov