Heroin is a highly addictive painkiller synthesized from morphine, which comes from the seeds of the poppy plant. Because poppy plants are used to make opium, any drugs derived from them are considered opiates. Heroin and morphine are both opiates.
Approximately four million Americans have tried heroin at least once in their lifetime. Symptoms of prolonged heroin use can include severe itchiness, depression and collapsed veins.
Addiction to Heroin
Needing larger doses of heroin to get high, or starting to inject the drug, are strong indications of an addiction. Once addicted, what may have once seemed like a cheap way to have fun, becomes a necessary habit to function in day-to-day activities.
Some signs that an addiction has formed include:
- Continuing use despite heroin-related problems
- Trying and failing to quit or cut down use
- Having persistent cravings
- Building a tolerance to heroin
- Experiencing withdrawal or feeling “junk sick”
“I ended up using heroin for about 5 years, sniffing it. But I was seeing all the people I was hanging out with who shot it totally jammed, and I was basically feeling normal [because] I now built a tolerance. I was now using heroin, a $150 a day habit, to feel normal.” – Michael D., in recovery from heroin and other drugs
What Does Heroin Look Like?
Not all heroin looks the same. It comes in several different forms and can be abused in several different ways, including snorting, smoking, and injecting.
Fine white powder
This is the purest form of heroin.
Brown or black powder
This form of heroin gets its color from additives and is more common than pure heroin.
Black tar heroin
This form of heroin comes as a black sticky gel.
Heroin users have described the drug’s high as an intense feeling of well-being. Injecting heroin causes the user to experience a rush from the drug reaching the brain quickly.
The rush from intravenous heroin use lasts about two minutes. Intravenous users have likened the rush to an orgasm in terms of pleasure. As heroin travels through the bloodstream, the high lasts for four to five hours.
The general effects of using heroin include:
- Reduced anxiety
- Relieved tension
The effects of heroin can seem harmless to those who are experimenting with the drug. What may seem like harmless or occasional heroin use often turns into an addiction because tolerance builds quickly. As the user increases their doses, they are at a greater risk of fatal heroin overdose.
Signs of a heroin overdose include:
- Shallow breathing
- Dry mouth
- Tongue discoloration
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Heroin is one of the most addictive substances in existence, and an addiction to this drug is hard to overcome without help. If you or someone you care about is suffering from a heroin addiction, find treatment and support that can help.