Street names include: smack, dope, tar, china white, dragon and many more
Heroin is an opiate drug derived from morphine, which is turn is found in certain strains of the poppy seed. It is exceptionally dangerous and addictive. For centuries it has been used both in a medicinal (no longer) and recreational capacity because of the significant painkilling properties and an intense high. As of 2012, a National Survey on Drug Use revealed over 660,000 Americans having used heroin in the past year. This is up from about 400,000 ten years earlier.
A brown or white substance, heroin can be injected directly into the bloodstream through a vein or into the muscle. Some smoke it and others snort the drug. Any of these delivery methods allow the drug to reach the brain very quickly. Pure heroin is white and is found more often in the Eastern half of the United States. Impure heroin, or black tar, is found predominantly in Western states and is most often injected.
Once heroin reaches the brain, it is converted back to morphine and attaches itself to opioid receptors. It stimulates the reward function of the brain and creates a high.
Because heroin is often injected, there is the significant risk of co-occurring diseases such as Hepatitis-C, HIV and other blood-borne illnesses. Many drug users share used needles and in doing so expose themselves to these diseases.
Treatment for Heroin Addiction
Heroin is a very strong drug that creates dependency. As such, the addict will have significant withdrawal symptoms once the drug is no longer abused. The first course of treatment is medical detox, which flushes the heroin form the body. The significant withdrawal is often managed through specially formulated medications administered by a qualified medical professional.
Methadone treatment is commonly used to treat opiate addiction, however it is an addictive substance itself. While it may reduce harm, one addiction is essentially substituted for another. A newer generation of medications has effectively reduced the discomfort of withdrawal without addiction substitution.
After the medical portion of treatment, patients will need to complete a regimen of behavioral treatment that includes counseling, support and follow-up care. Again, the duration and course of treatment largely rests on the addict’s condition and professional opinion. Support activities include attending Narcotics Anonymous (NA) groups and support groups at the treatment facility.
Heroin jumped into the national consciousness in the 60s and 70s when it became the drug of choice for inner city dealers throughout the country. While somewhat limited in its distribution, it was considered an epidemic. Over the course of a couple decades, its use declined significantly.
Because of a relatively recent crackdown on synthetic opioid painkillers in the United States, heroin has been gaining ground as a relatively cheap and easy-to-find drug. The result has been a resurgence of heroin use to levels that have not been seen in several decades. This time around however, the drug use has not been limited to the inner city. Please visit our blog post on Heroin 2.0.