What is Heroin?
Currently, heroin represents one of the largest drug problems in the United States. Recognizing the signs of heroin use could be the thing that saves your loved one’s life. The best way to help a heroin addict is to get them into heroin addiction treatment as soon as possible. Heroin is one of the hardest drugs to stop and has a high potential for relapse, so it is important to help heroin addicts get the tools they need to get clean and stay clean.
Heroin is a product of the opium poppy and produces an effect similar to opiate painkillers. There are many legal painkillers that are also made from the opium poppy. However, heroin is an illegal drug with an exceptionally high potential for abuse and addiction.
Heroin Street Names
Heroin is known by many different street names, including:
- H, Big H
- Tar/Black Tar
- Brown/Brown Sugar
- White/China White/White Horse
- Black Pearl
How Does Heroin Usually Look?
Heroin is most commonly available in two forms:
- A powder that can range in color from white to dark brown
- A sticky dark substance known as “tar” or “black tar”
How is Heroin Ingested?
Heroin can be inhaled (snorted), smoked (either vaporized or rolled into a marijuana-like joint), or injected. Injection can take place in a vein (“intravenous”), under the skin (“skin popping”), or intra-muscular. All methods of ingesting heroin are dangerous. Smoking heroin can cause severe lung deterioration. Snorting heroin will eventually damage nasal pathways. Injecting heroin is the single-most dangerous form of ingestion.
Addicts often wind up as intravenous users because it produces an almost instant and very intense high, by putting the drug directly into the blood stream. When a user begins intravenous heroin use, they have a full-blown heroin addiction.
What Are Some Signs of Heroin Addiction?
You may be able to identify if someone you love has a heroin addiction by some of the common signs, including:
- Drug paraphernalia (e.g., hypodermic needles, small baggies, spoons, and pipes)
- Glassy eyes
- Slurred speech
- Flushed skin
- Poor hygiene, lack of grooming
What are the Effects of Heroin Abuse?
Heroin gives the user a “euphoric” experience, which causes intense relaxation. Other side effects include:
- Dry mouth
- Feeling of heavy extremities
- Flushed skin
- Slurred speech
- Droopy eyelids
- Slow breathing
- Slow gait
- Mental clouding
- “Nodding out” (going back and forth
from alert to drowsy)
What are the Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal?
Because withdrawal can be so painful, users with full-blown heroin addiction should consider a medically supervised detox withdrawal instead of stopping cold-turkey. We can refer you to a quality detox program.
Withdrawal syndrome can begin after a few hours off of heroin. The worst withdrawal symptoms generally peak between 24-48 hours later.
Heroin withdrawal symptoms include:
- Intense, persistent cravings
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bone pain
- Involuntary leg movements or kicking
- Cold flashes with goose bumps
- Flu-like symptoms
- Body aches
If you or someone you love is showing signs of heroin withdrawal, you should consider seeking medical assistance immediately. We can refer you to a detox program that can help.
What are the Dangers of Heroin Addiction?
Heroin causes a wide variety of physical and psychological health issues:
- Nutrition – Heroin addicts often neglect basic nutrition, while at the same time heroin shuts down many of the bodies processes. Heroin addicts are often constipated and look bony and sallow because lack of vitamins and nutrients.
- Immune System – Opiates suppress the immune system and leave the body unable to fight off colds and other types of sickness.
- Blood-Bourne Illness – Intravenous heroin users run the risk of sharing or using dirty needles, which can spread infections like tetanus, hepatitis, and HIV/AIDS.
- Vein Problems – Chronic intravenous heroin addicts may develop collapsed veins and skin infections called abscesses.
- Additives – Street heroin is often “cut” with additives to dilute heroin’s potency or to increase the overall amount a dealer has to sell. Some dealers add things like sugar or corn starch, but you can never be sure about what you are buying. When these additives enter the blood stream, they can trigger allergic reactions that can sometimes be deadly.
- Overdose – Heroin has a very high overdose potential. There are no standards in processing heroin. Every strain is different and can be weaker or stronger than the others. As a result, it can be easy to overestimate how much heroin will be needed to get high, leading to overdose and death.
The ultimate consequence of heroin addiction is death. It’s not a question of “if,” but “when.” Heroin’s highly addictive nature makes it very difficult to quit without treatment. If you or a loved one is suffering from heroin addiction, it is important to seek help immediately.