According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), heroin is an illegal drug. Not only it is the most abused opioid, but heroin is extremely addictive. Heroin also poses special problems due to transmission of HIV and other diseases that can occur from sharing needles or other injection equipment.

Heroin is processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of certain varieties of poppy plants. It is typically sold as a white or brownish powder or as the black sticky substance known on the street as rubber or black tar (black tar heroin).

Although it is becoming more common to find higher purity heroin, most of the heroin sold on the street has been mixed or cut with other drugs or with substances such as sugar, starch, or powdered milk. The heroin you find on the streets also can be cut with strychnine or other poisons. Since most people who abuse heroin usually do not know the actual strength of the drug or its true contents, they run the risk of an overdose and death.

How is heroin used?

Heroin is usually injected or smoked. The addict may inject it up to four times a day. Intravenous injection provides the greatest intensity and the most rapid onset of euphoria (seven to eight seconds), while intramuscular injection produces a relatively slow onset of euphoria (five to eight minutes). When heroin is sniffed or smoked, the user usually feels its peak effect after about 10 to 15 minutes. Researchers at NIDA have confirmed that all forms of heroin administration are addictive.

Injection remains the most common method of heroin administration among addicts seeking treatment. However, there are certain groups in the suburbs of Denver, who report smoking or inhaling heroin because they believe that these methods of administration reduce the chances of addiction.

In recent years, the availability of higher purity heroin (which is more suitable for inhalation) and the decrease in prices reported in many areas have decreased heroin users’ administration of the drug through injection.  Unfortunately, heroin has also begun to appear in more affluent communities.

Effects of heroin

Shortly after injection (or inhalation), heroin enters the blood in the brain. In the brain, heroin is converted to morphine and binds rapidly to opioid receptors. People who abuse heroin typically report feeling a surge of pleasurable sensations, commonly known as a rush. This rush is usually accompanied by a flushing of the skin, dry mouth, and heaviness in the limbs, sometimes followed by nausea, vomiting, and severe itching.

Mental function is clouded by the effects of heroin in the central nervous system. Heart function and breathing can be depressed to the point of death. Heroin overdose can be particularly dangerous when an individual is using heroin from the street because it is not possible to determine with certainty the amount and purity of the drug.

Treatments for heroin addiction

There is a variety of effective treatments for heroin addiction. Methadone, a synthetic opiate that blocks the effects of heroin and eliminates withdrawal symptoms, has a proven record of successful heroin addiction recovery.  Other pharmacological approaches, such as buprenorphine, and many therapies for behavioral change can also be used to treat heroin addiction.

One of the first steps to heroin addiction recovery is detoxification. This is important to reduce the severity of the symptoms and other medical complications. The primary objective of detoxification is to relieve withdrawal symptoms while patients adjust to a drug-free environment.


Source: Drugs.com

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