In 1874 heroin was first synthesized from morphine by Chemist C.R. Alder Wright at St. Mary's hospital in London. At the time the potential for heavy use was not recognized.
Heroin is also known as Smack, Dope, Tar, Diesel, Thunder, H, Brown Sugar, Caballo, Charley, Chiva, Horse, Junk, Skag, Hell Dust and a number of other street names varying state to state. Prices vary from $13,000 to $200,000 per kilo of heroin and $10-15 per 1/10 of a gram of heroin (usual sale dosage). In the United States in 1999 there where 104,000 new heroin users, in 2000 approximately 1.2% of the population reported heroin use at least once in their lifetime.
Chronic use may cause collapsed veins, infection of heart lining and valves, abscesses, liver disease, pulmonary complications, and various types of pneumonia. Heroin causes depression of the central nervous system (CNS), cloudy mental functioning and slowed breathing to the point of possible respiratory failure. A heroin overdose may cause slow and shallow breathing, convulsions, coma, and possibly death.
Heavy heroin users typically report feeling a surge of pleasurable sensations, a "rush." The intensity of the rush is a function of how much of the drug is injected and how rapidly the drug enters the brain and binds to the brains natural opioid receptors. Heroin is pleasurable for some because it enters the brain so rapidly. With heroin, the rush is usually accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, intense euphoria, dry mouth, and a heavy feeling in the extremities, which may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and severe itching.
There are a number of ways to ingest heroin. Heroin can be injected intravenously, intramuscularly, and it can be smoked or snorted. Black tar heroin, if snorted, is usually mixed with water and then snorted (referred to as "monkey-water").
Obvious indication of heroin use would be track marks (puncture marks from injections), slurred speech, nodding off, weight loss, bags under eyes, a pale appearance, pinned pupils (when pupils completely contract), and an obvious change in mood and health.
The potency of heroin seems to be a factor based on location. States closer to either border have higher grade (more heroin per 1/10 gram) heroin then those that are not. Heroin usually comes in two forms. A black tar like substance (named after its appearance) is usually available in states closer to the Mexican border and the white or slightly yellow powder form that is more readily available nationally. The difference between the two types of heroin is the potency. Black tar heroin usually consists of closer to 90% pure heroin while powdered heroin is, on average, 5-20% pure.
While heroin is socially stigmatized as one of the more dangerous and damaging drugs, it is actually safer then alcohol. The dangers involving heroin lie in the possibility of an overdose, hot-shots (bad batches that cause fatalities), intravenous drug use dangers (disease transmission, infection at injection site, abscesses), and gastrointestinal problems as a result of constipation caused by the heroin . An additional problem with street grade heroin is what is referred to as "cut" or "filler." An accompanying chemical that is used to sell less heroin for more money. These "fillers" usually consist of baby laxatives and/or fentanyl. But, each heroin dealer decides what the heroin is "cut" with, which has resulted in numerous deaths.
Detoxification from heroin can be extremely uncomfortable. Symptoms of withdrawal consist of: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, fever, runny nose, repeated yawning, bone pain, skin crawls, rotational thinking, depression and anxiety. While most heroin users seek a detoxification unit to come off the drug, the risk of death from an unaided heroin detox is very low and is usually caused by additional or unrelated health problems.
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