It’s one of the most addictive substances known to man, yet surprisingly, one of the most misunderstood. Stigmas abound when it comes to heroin, but the facts are often severely lacking. As in most cases of drug addiction, information can be the difference between abstinence and submission. Here are ten different facts you might not know about heroin.
It Comes from Morphine
The opiate family tree is broad. What began with the opium poppy more than three centuries ago soon fathered morphine, a drug used in hospitals to treat severe pain. In the late nineteenth century, chemist Felix Hoffman—in an attempt to create a substance less addictive than morphine—produced a form of morphine one and a half to two times more potent than morphine itself. The drug was dubbed “heroin” after the German “heroisch,” which means “heroic, strong.”
The Notorious Heroin “Junkie” is Not What You Think
Heroin addiction is not limited to the peddler on the street or the prostitute in the shadows—in fact, there is no “typical” heroin user. Many heroin addicts today are in their teens or early 20’s and often come from middle- or upper-class suburban families. Much of this is due to prescription drug addiction, which is at unprecedented rates. People of any age can find themselves addicted to prescription opioids like OxyContin or Vicodin after an operation, and after a while the cheaper version—heroin—becomes more appealing.
Addiction is Fast
Regular use of heroin brings about tolerance, which means that the user requires a higher quantity of the drug in order to experience the same high. This results in addiction.
When a person becomes tolerant, he experiences withdrawal symptoms if he tries to stop or decrease the amount of drug he is taking. Withdrawal symptoms mirror the signs of a flu or a cold, so oftentimes users
don’t even know what is going on.
It’s Not Just Injected
Heroin can be administered in a number of ways—it can be injected, snorted or smoked. All three methods lead to addiction and severe health problems.
It’s Agonizingly Persistent
Even after a person’s last heroin use, cravings can persist for years. A craving can be triggered by stress or exposure to people, places or things associated with drug use.
Withdrawal Is Brutal
Once a person stops taking heroin, major withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose. They can last up to a week or even a few months. It is dangerous for heavy users to stop using heroin “cold turkey” because sudden withdrawal symptoms for them can be fatal.
In its purist form, heroin is sold as a fine, white powder. It is more common, however, to find heroin as a rose gray, brown or black. The drug’s strength is hard to decipher because so many different mixtures are produced, all at different potencies. Manufacturers and dealers cut heroin with other toxic ingredients to increase profits.
It Was Used By Doctors
When it was first manufactured by Bayer in the late nineteenth century, heroin was marketed as a treatment for tuberculosis. It was also considered a “non-addictive” treatment for morphine addiction.
Withdrawal is Excruciating
Physical withdrawal from heroin produces a myriad of painful symptoms including: restlessness, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes, goose bumps, muscle pain and bone pain.
The Health Risks are Not Worth It
The effects of heroin on health include: fatal overdose, STD’s such as HIV from sharing needles, collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, and liver disease.