Addiction A-Z

Heroin

Heroin, also called acetomorphine, diacetylmorphine or diamorphine, is an illegal and highly addictive drug processed from morphine. Impure heroin is sold as a white or brownish powder that is “cut” with sugars, starch, powdered milk or quinine. It is typically dissolved, diluted and injected into veins, muscles or under the skin. Pure heroin, on the other hand, is a white powder with a bitter taste and can be snorted or smoked. Heroin was once used medically as an analgesic or sedative or for the treatment of morphine addiction, however, due to its addictive nature, it is now prohibited in the U.S. under federal law for medical use, manufacturing and importation. Today heroin use is a rising Herointrend among young adults ages 18 to 25. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2012 about 669,000 Americans reported using heroin in the past year, with 156,000 people starting heroin use in 2012, nearly double the number of people in 2006 (90,000). In contrast, heroin use has been declining among teens aged 12–17. Abusers typically report feeling a “rush,” or surge of pleasurable sensation, which is usually accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth and a heavy feeling in the extremities, which may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and severe itching. After the initial effects, users are usually drowsy for several hours; mental function is clouded; heart function slows; and breathing is also severely slowed. If taken in large amounts, heroin can cause fatal respiratory failure. When heroin is mixed with cocaine (known as a “speedball”), respiratory depression occurs and brain reception decreases dramatically faster, which often leads to death. Famous deaths caused by heroin intoxication include actors John Belushi and River Phoenix, comedian Mitch Hedberg, and musicians Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Bradley Nowell and Sid Vicious.

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