What is heroin?
Heroin is a highly addictive drug, processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the opium poppy plant. Opiates are depressants that affect many areas of the brain and nervous system. Heroin can block the brain’s ability to perceive pain and changes the limbic system to increase feelings of pleasure. Heroin is typically sold as a white or brownish powder or black sticky tar-like substance.

Street names/slang terms for heroin
There are many different names for heroin such as “H”, smack, junk, blacktar, brown sugar, dope, horse, skag, and many others.

How is it used?
Heroin can be used in a variety of ways, depending upon the preference of the user. It is usually injected, sniffed/snorted, or smoked. Intravenous injection provides the greatest intensity and most rapid onset of euphoria (7 to 8 seconds); intramuscular injection produces a slower reaction (5 to 8 minutes). When sniffed or smoked, effects are usually felt within 10 to 15 minutes.

How does it effect the user?heroin
Soon after injecting or inhaling heroin, abusers typically report feeling a surge of euphoria (“rush”) accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, a dry mouth, and heavy extremities. Following this initial euphoria, the user goes “on the nod”, an alternately wakeful and drowsy state.

Mental functioning becomes clouded due to the depression of the central nervous system. Other effects include slowed and slurred speech, slow gait, constricted pupils, droopy eyelids, impaired night vision, vomiting, and constipation. Long term effects appear after repeated use for some period of time. Chronic users may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, cellulites, and liver disease. Pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia, may result from poor health conditions of the abuser, as well as from heroin’s depressing effects on respiration.

In addition to the effects of the drug itself, street heroin may have additives that do not readily dissolve and result in clogging the blood vessels that lead to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain. This can cause infection or even death of small patches of cells in vital organs. With regular heroin use, tolerance develops. This means the abuser must uses more heroin to achieve the same intensity or effect. As higher doses are used over time, physical dependence and addiction develops. With physical dependence, the body has adapted to the presence of the drug and withdrawal symptoms may occur if use is reduced or stopped.

Withdrawal may occur as early as a few hours after the last administration and manifest as drug cravings, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea and vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps, kicking movements. Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 to 72 hours after the last dose and subside after about a week. Sudden withdrawal by heavily dependent users who are in poor health, is occasionally fatal.


Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)