Monday, September 25th, 2017

Heroin Use


Heroin is an opioid that is synthesized from morphine. It is derived from the opium poppy. Heroin is synthesized into morphine in the body after consumption.

Heroin is used in some parts of the world in medical settings. Under the chemical name dimorphine, heroin is used as a potent analgesic in the United Kingdom. It is used in to relieve extreme pain. The UK also has a heroin maintenance program for addicts, much like the more common methadone clinics.

Heroin can be smoked, snorted, or injected. When used, heroin causes feelings of extreme euphoria. Users report an initial rush, a warm feeling on the skin, dry mouth, limb heaviness, and clouded mental faculties. After the initial rush of heroin, users fall into a state usually referred to as “nodding” when they are in a state between sleeping and waking.

Heroin enters the brain and binds to opioid receptors. These receptors are very closely associated with the “reward” centers in the brain. Tolerance quickly develops with the use of heroin, and more and more of the drug is needed to produce the same effects. Because of this, many heroin users become addicted.

Different types of heroin can vary greatly in appearance. Usually, it is a powder that ranges from dark brown to white; in general, the whiter the powder, the purer the drug. In some parts of the US, heroin comes in a dark, tar-like form, known as “black tar” heroin.

Users of heroin are at risk for serious health complications. Intravenous use can result in the contraction of AIDS or hepatitis C, endocarditis, or abscesses. Heroin targets the part of the brain stem that controls respiration. Because of this, heroin use causes pulmonary complications. In addition, most heroin overdoses result from respiratory depression.

Withdrawal from heroin can be very uncomfortable. Typically, withdrawal symptoms will begin six to twelve hours after the last dose and last up to a week. The worst withdrawal symptoms are usually experienced one to three days after the last time heroin is used. However, some users experience weeks to months of withdrawal symptoms. This type of long lasting withdrawal is known as post-acute withdrawal.

Typically, heroin users will experience sweats, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting during withdrawal. Insomnia is another common heroin withdrawal symptom. Because heroin is an opioid analgesic, heroin use causes the body to reduce the amount of pain killing chemicals it producers. Because of this, heroin users will often experience aches and pains when coming off of heroin. Most people who are withdrawing after heroin use experience profound drug craving. Part of craving is the desire to feel the high of heroin again and part of it is to reduce the uncomfortable feelings of withdrawal.

While heroin withdrawal is often very uncomfortable, it is not life threatening. However, it may be advisable for a person who is experiencing extreme withdrawal to explore the option of a safe, medical detox program. There are several drugs on the market which are used in a clinical setting to make withdrawal more comfortable. The most commonly used are methadone and buprenorphine. These drugs are opioids, but have a longer half-life and are more difficult to abuse than heroin.