top of page
Substance Abuse - Heroin

Commonly Known As: smack, tar, dope, junk, H, horse, skag, hell dust, chiva, brown sugar, China White. Slang words to describe use include slamming, shooting, mainlining, popping, chasing the dragon; addicts are called junkies.

Access to Drug: Sold through dealers, someone who knows someone, some availability at clubs, parties and on the streets. It is highly addictive and illegal; arrests can be made for under the influence, driving under the influence, possession, possession of paraphernalia, sales, distribution, and transporting.

Scientific Name: diacetylmorphine. Heroin is synthetic opium derived from the poppy plant grown in parts of Asia and South America. Heroin is sold in the form of a white to dark brown powder or sticky brown/black tar-like substance, depending on where the Heroin was manufactured.

Interesting Facts: Heroin was first refined in England from morphine in 1874 in an attempt to develop a less addicting painkiller than morphine. In 1898, it’s use became worldwide through distribution by Bayer and Company for coughs, chest pain and pneumonia. It’s estimated there were up to one million opium, morphine and heroin abusers in the United States by the early 1900’s. By 1924, the Heroin Act was passed making the manufacturing and possession of Heroin illegal. Despite the laws, Heroin use continued and a surge of Heroin in the late sixties was blamed on the U.S involvement in the Vietnam War. Heroin use has remained constant, and, unfortunately, Heroin has been glamorized in the media by musicians, the fashion world, and some entertainers, creating “heroin chic”, a thin, gaunt, dark look that has attracted young people to the drug and the heroin subculture.

Methods of Use: Intravenous injection, smoking/sniffing, or snorting. Typically, a heroin abuser may use up to four times a day. There is a myth among users that smoking or sniffing is less addicting, and, those who smoke or sniff heroin tend to look down on IV users, despite the fact that heroin, no matter how it is used, is a highly addictive substance. Users who inject heroin will dissolve it over heat in a small amount of water or alcohol to create the liquid form for the syringe. Smokers use pipes, roll heroin in cigarettes, marijuana joints, or with crack while sniffers heat the heroin and puff the smoke.

Common Effects When Intoxicated: Constricted/ pinpoint pupils, vomiting, nodding out, itching and scratching, slurred speech, sensation of slowed time, euphoria followed by nodding, a heavy feeling in the extremities, dry mouth and runny nose. There is clouded mental functioning or stupor, decreased respiration and heart rate.

Duration of Intoxication: Intoxication develops within seconds with injection and within 2 to 3 minutes from smoking/sniffing. The effects will be felt for 4 to six hours, depending on the amount and purity of the drug. Due to the euphoria that accompanies heroin use, users will chase the high and tolerance quickly develops, requiring more of the drug. Also, the body and brain adapt to the drug, creating painful, strong withdrawal symptoms that help motivate users to continue to abuse heroin.

Withdrawal: The intensity of the withdrawal depends on the length of time heroin has been used and the amount. Commonly, there is drug craving, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, complaints of flu like symptoms, insomnia, and cold flashes that last for several days. Heavy users will experience body and stomach cramps, vomiting, DT’s, auditory and visual hallucinations, hot and cold flashes, and may require medication. The effects can last three to five days with lingering cravings for the drug, and some will seek medication, illegally or legally, to curb the withdrawal.

Effects of Long Term Use: Long term effects include physical and psychological dependence, collapsed veins, needle mark scars on the body, malnutrition, abscesses, cellulites, infection of the heart lining and valves, pneumonia and liver disease. Heroin addicts are highly susceptible to HIV/AIDS from needle sharing and unsafe sex, Hepatitis B and C, and cessation of menstruation. Addicts also become involved in crime, such as prostitution, burglary, and theft to maintain their “habit” which costs about $100 to $200 per day.

Abuse, Dependence, and Addiction: Heroin is highly addictive due to the euphoric feeling created by the drug and physical as well as psychological dependence develops rapidly. It is often fatal due to drug over doses and contamination from impurities mixed with the heroin for street sales. Treatment is required for addicts in order to help change use patterns, lifestyle beliefs and Drug, Alcohol & Tobacco Awareness endure cravings.

Associated Risks: Addicts can become as addicted to the “ritual’ of getting high as to the drug itself. This includes the buying and preparation of the drug to get the effect. Users also face legal action for crimes related to their addiction which affect communities, neighborhoods, and schools. Pregnant heroin users risk miscarriages, premature and stillbirths. Infants who are born to addicted mothers are born addicted, taken from the mothers and placed in child protective custody.

bottom of page