2017-12-14 / Front Page

Commonly asked heroin questions

Source: National Institute of Drug Abuse

THIS IS what white-powder heroin looks like. 
— Photo courtesy of theU.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. THIS IS what white-powder heroin looks like. — Photo courtesy of theU.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. What is heroin?

Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants grown in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. Heroin can be a white or brown powder, or a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin. Other common names for heroin include big H, horse, hell dust, and smack.

How do people use heroin?

People inject, sniff, snort, or smoke heroin. Some people mix heroin with crack cocaine, a practice called speed-balling.

What are the physical effects of heroin?

Heroin enters the brain rapidly and binds to opioid receptors on cells located in many areas, especially those involved in feelings of pain and pleasure and in controlling heart rate, sleeping, and breathing.

Short-Term Effects

People who use heroin report feeling a “rush,” or a surge of pleasure and euphoria. However, there are other common effects, including dry mouth, warm flushing of the skin, heavy feeling in the arms and legs, nausea and vomiting, severe itching and clouded mental functioning. Users are known to go “on the nod,” a back-and-forth state of being conscious and semiconscious.

Long-Term Effects

People who use heroin over the long term may develop insomnia, collapsed veins for people who inject the drug and damaged tissue inside the nose for people who sniff or snort it, infection of the heart lining and valves, swollen tissue filled with pus, constipation and stomach cramping, liver and kidney disease, lung complications including pneumonia, mental disorders such as depression and antisocial personality disorder, sexual dysfunction for men, and irregular menstrual cycles for women.

Is heroin addictive?

Heroin is highly addictive. People who regularly use heroin often develop a tolerance, which means that they need higher and more frequent doses of the drug to get its desired effects.

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