What is heroin?
Heroin belongs to the class of drugs known as opioids. Opioids are derived from Morphine, and Morphine is created from the opium poppy plant. Heroin is a semi-synthetic opioid that is produced by isolating the compounds of the opium plant.
There are a few different forms of heroin
Heroin is sold as a brown or off-white powder, and sometimes as a black sticky substance that people refer to as black tar heroin.
There are a couple of ways it is used
Heroin is used by people in a few different ways. Depending on the form of heroin, it is either smoked, insufflated, or injected into the veins of the user — most users that inject heroin start by doing so on their hands and feet before moving on to the veins in their arm.
Once heroin enters the bloodstream of the user, it quickly binds to the opioid receptors in the brain. The opioid receptors affect things like pleasure and pain. The mental effects include feelings of euphoria, happiness, and numbness.
These mental effects are often accompanied by unpleasant physical effects such as :
- Shallow breathing
- Flushing of the skin
- Dryness in the mouth
- Decreased cognitive function
If the heroin use becomes prolonged the user is putting themselves at risk of developing more serious, long-term effects such as:
- Damaged veins
- Deterioration of the nasal tissue (for users that sniff)
- Damage to the heart
- Severe constipation
- Worsening of mental disorders
Most of the time it isn’t just heroin
Heroin is cut with many different substances by dealers and traffickers before it ends up in the hands of the user. This makes heroin even more dangerous for intravenous users. Heroin is sometimes cut with things that can cause serious damage to the heart, lungs, and kidneys when they enter directly into the bloodstream by being injected.
Fentanyl is another substance that has been used to cut heroin in recent times. Fentanyl is another opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin. Heroin cut with fentanyl is often deadly due to inaccurate measuring methods used by the people cutting the heroin. This combination is also deadly because most of the people who purchase this combination are not aware of the fact that they are getting fentanyl.
If you know somebody that is addicted to heroin
There are some products that you can carry with you to assist the person that is overdosing. Naloxone can be purchased at most pharmacies and can reverse the effects of an overdose. Naloxone comes in a nasal spray as well as in an injector pen. Naloxone is most commonly sold under the brand name Narcan.
With the increase of overdoses, this year having a Naloxone product on hand is a wise choice for everyone. If you do not have a loved one that is addicted to heroin, having Naloxone on hand may still allow you to save the life of another person’s loved one if they overdose in your presence.