Heroin is an opioid derived from the dried sap of the opium poppy. It is therefore in the same category of painkillers as morphine and codeine. It can be stored as a dry powder and then reconstituted for use. Opioids have been used for euphoria and pain relief for thousands of years, as translations of Sumerian texts refer to the effect of the poppy plant. It was brought to China by Arab traders about the eighth century A.D. In later dealings, the British East India Company became a chief supplier and promoter of opium for the China market. When heroin was first invented, people thought it would be less addictive than morphine. This did not prove to be true. In some countries, heroin is mixed with alcohol and given as an elixir to terminal cancer patients.
The effects of heroin include significant pain relief, but as the dose is increased, euphoria results. Even at doses where there is strong euphoria, co-ordination and intellect are only mildly affected. At higher doses, sedation, respiratory depression and coma may occur. People taking opioids for painful medical conditions describe knowing the pain is present, but not caring. Unfortunately, tolerance quickly develops with heroin; more and more is required just to feel normal. Addiction potential is so high, some users become criminals or prostitutes to support their habit.
Physical – High. Psychological – High.
Method of Use
Heroin can be swallowed or mixed with water and injected. The heated fumes of heroin can be inhaled for a rapid high (called “chasing the dragon”). When heroin is sold as a street drug, it may be diluted with powdered glucose. Talc, flour and other powders have been used also. It is these “cutting” powders which have lead to kidney failure in some who inject heroin. Heroin can also be smoked.
Provides effective pain relief for medical purposes.
Illegal. Highly addictive. Deadly overdoses are not unusual, and have lead to the deaths of countless users, including many famous musicians and actors (see list below). Sharing IV needles can lead to AIDS, hepatitis and other contagious diseases. Frequent injection of any drug can lead to collapsed veins and blood vessels, and heart valve infections. Even after quitting heroin, some users remain methadone addicts.
A Few Celebrity Deaths Caused By Heroin Use
- Janis Joplin
- Sid Vicious
- River Phoenix
- Philip Seymour Hoffman
- Chris Farley
- John Belushi
- Cory Monteith
- Jim Morrison
- Peaches Geldof (AND her mom Paula Yates)
- Dee Dee Ramone
- Kristen Pfaff (bassist for Hole)