Smack, horse, mud, brown sugar, junk, black tar,
big H, dope, skag, dreck, mojo, white lady, brown. Users report feeling a rush
of pleasure, accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, a dry mouth, and heavy
extremities. They then sink into a dreamy, pleasant, drowsy state in which
they have little sensitivity to pain. Other effects included slowed and
slurred speech, slow gait, dilated pupils, droopy eyelids, vomiting, as well as
Heroin is a white to dark brown powder or tar-like
substance. It is a highly addictive drug obtained by chemically altering
morphine, a major constituant of the poppy seed pod. Heroin is a "downer" that
affects the brain's pleasure systems and interferes with the brain's ability to
perceive pain. Heroin can be used in a variety of ways, depending on user
preference and the purity of the drug. Heroin can be injected into a vein
("mainlining"), injected into a muscle, smoked in a water pipe or standard
pipe, mixed in a marijuana joint or regular cigarette, inhaled as smoke through
a straw (known as "chasing the dragon,") and snorted as powder via the nose.
Heroin causes a pleasant, drowsy state, in which all
cares are forgotten and there is a decreased sense of pain (analgesia).
Immediately after injection, the feelings are most intense. This feeling is
described as similar to a sexual orgasm. After that, the sexual feelings
diminish and there is a decreased sexual desire and performance.
Breathing slows, pupils are constricted and many users
experience nausea and perhaps even vomit. Opiates also create tension in
certain muscles in the gastrointestinal tract so much that the normal
propulsive movements that move food along cannot operate effectively, hence
their ability to cause constipation. Through a similar action, they can also
cause difficulties in urination.
The poppy plant evolved to match the biology of their
predator/pollinators by developing opium alkaloids, a compound that acts on a
class of neurotransmitter receptors in the brain of mammals. Opiates act by
binding to specific receptor molecules for the endorphin/enkephalin class of
neurotransmittors in the brain. These are among the neurotransmittors that
control movement, moods, and physiology. Heroin enters the brain more rapidly
than other opiates but is then converted back to morphine once inside. Taking
heroin is like all the endogenous opioid neurons firing at once.
Long-term effects of heroin 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
the poor health condition of the abuser, as well as from heron's depressing
effects on respiration. In addition to the effects of the drug itself, street
heroin may have additives that do not really 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 use more
heroin to achieve the same intensity or effect. As higher doses are used over
time, physical dependence and addiction develop. 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, which in regular abusers may occur
as early as a few hours after the last administration, produces drug craving,
restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea and vomiting, cold
flashes with goose bumps ("cold turkey"), kicking movements ("kicking the
habit"), and other symptoms. Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 and 72
hours after the last and subside after about a week. Sudden withdrawal by
heavily dependent users who are in poor health is occasionally fatal, although
heroin withdrawal is considered much less dangerous than alcohol or barbiturate
drug warriors ·
$400bn business ·
Kuhn, Cynthia, Scott Swartzwelder and Wilkie Wilson. Buzzed : the straight facts about the most used and abused drugs
from alcohol to ecstasy. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998.
"heroin" Britannica.com. Vers. 2001
1999-2001. Encyclopædia Britannica.
1 Sep. 2000
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