Heroin is an illegal drug derived from morphine, which is a painkiller used in the medical field. The drug comes from the seeds of the opium poppy plant, so heroin is also considered an opiate. Therefore, this drug is also addictive, just as morphine and other opiates are.
The drug has a similar pain-killing effect, but it is much stronger than morphine or opium. It was developed in 1898 by Bayer, a German pharma company. The drug’s name is derived from the German word “heroisch”, meaning strong and heroic.
As a popular illegal drug, heroin goes by a lot of street names. These include Big H, black pearl, brown sugar, China white, dope, horse, junk, and mud.
To know more about this drug, its effects, and how to treat addiction, here are some useful facts about it.
1. Heroin was originally used as a treatment for morphine addiction
To address the issue of morphine abuse, this drug was originally introduced as a “non-addictive” treatment. However, heroin was later on proven to be more addictive than morphine itself.
2. Pure heroin appears as a white powder
For this reason, the drug has a number of street names starting with the word “white”, such as white boy, white girl, white horse, white lady, white nurse, and white stuff.
If the drug is impure, the powder may appear brown or black. These variants were processed crudely, leaving many impurities along with the powder. These impurities add to the dangers of using dope because users do not know the exact concentration of the drug. Thus, it is easier to accidentally overdose.
3. The opioid crisis in the United States elevated the number of heroin users
Although the drug has been used recreationally for several years, it saw a significant increase in the US because of the recent opioid crisis. According to statistics, 80% of users admitted that they began with prescription opioids. Once the government tightened regulations on prescription painkillers, addicts turned to this drug instead. It is also more potent but less costly, making it more appealing to users.
While it does have pain-killing properties, it is classified as a Schedule I drug in the US. This means that the drug has no accepted medical uses.
4. Heroin hijacks the brain’s pleasure center
The drug rapidly enters the brain and triggers the release of a chemical called dopamine, which controls the part of the brain that induces feelings of pleasure. This mode of action is similar to other opioids, generating feelings of well-being. The drug is fast-acting as many users report a surge of pleasure immediately after taking the drug.
However, a negative consequence of using dope is drowsiness and confusion. These may last for several hours after the drug is taken.
5. Heroin is five times stronger than morphine
Because of this, users can feel the drug’s effects instantly after taking it in. It can even enter the bloodstream very quickly, which adds to the immediate results. These are most pronounced when the drug is either snorted or injected.
The strength of this drug is one big reason that opioid addicts turn to it from prescription painkillers. Not only is it stronger, but it’s much cheaper too.
6. Heroin stays inside the body for up to a week
The drug is detectable in a user’s urine for two to seven days after intake. It stays for a much shorter time in the blood and saliva, though: only six hours and five hours, respectively.
7. Heroin’s effects depend on the dose
Small doses of the drug can give users a warm, fuzzy feeling. On the other hand, large doses can make them feel relaxed and drowsy. For some users, taking the drug for the first time may trigger dizziness and vomiting.
8. One effect of the drug is “going on the nod”
In other words, users may go back and forth between a conscious and a semi-conscious state. Alongside this, other mental functions may be severely affected as well. Moreover, long-term use of the drug would permanently damage their cognitive functions.
All these are consequences of how the drug interacts with the brain.
9. Some street versions of heroin are mixed with extremely powerful tranquilizers
As if the drug itself wasn’t powerful enough, drug dealers now mix it with other compounds to make the effects stronger. Some modern street versions of dope are combined with either Fentanyl or Carfentanil.
The former is 50 times more potent than dope, while the latter is 100 times more powerful. In fact, Carfentanil is often used as a tranquilizer for elephants and other large animals.
With these ingredients, street versions of this drug are extra dangerous to users’ brains and bodies. It can literally shut their systems down fast.
10. Heroin overdose is fatal
It is easy to overdose on the drug, and its consequences are deadly. One immediate symptom of overdose is respiratory failure; in other words, breathing would slow down or completely stop.
Other fatal symptoms include loss of consciousness, coma, weakening of the pulse, and low blood pressure. The lips and fingernails may also turn blue.
11. A drug called Naloxone can act as a remedy for heroin overdose
Naloxone is a common medication used to treat cases of opioid overdose. It can be administered as an injectable or as a nasal spray. If given immediately, Naloxone blocks opioids from reaching their targets in the brain.
Even with Naloxone as first aid, users who have overdosed on dope must still seek emergency medical care. There may be additional symptoms that Naloxone cannot treat.
12. Heroin addiction is treatable
Just like other substance abuse cases, there are ways to treat this addiction. Various methods of heroin rehab are available, and users do not have to deal with their cases alone. Support networks are also within reach, which help recovering users a lot in taking back control of their lives.
If you or someone you care about is suffering from dope addiction, seek professional help. It is the first step on the road to recovery.