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Heroin is a morphine derivative, made from the opium poppy. It is an addictive, dangerous and powerful narcotic drug. It is both an analgesic (pain killer) and an illegal recreational drug which has again gained ground in popular use. Heroin used to come primarily from Southeast Asia, but now it is also being manufactured in Mexico.

Slang terms include:

  • Horse
  • H
  • Heron
  • Big H
  • Skag
  • Number 3,4 or 8
  • Dope
  • Mud
  • Boy
  • Mexican Brown
  • Black tar
  • Snow

There are a number of other terms for heroin and its combinations with other drugs.

How is it used?
Heroin can be freebased (smoked) or injected. A deadly problem with today’s street heroin is that it is showing up in purer forms, so overdose is much more possible.

Signs of usage
The high or euphoria produced by heroin makes the user almost oblivious to other concerns. Users who inject also have track marks on their bodies; these create scarring, sores and bruising, as well as collapsed veins, so that new injection sites have to be used. Users eventually show obvious signs of physical deterioration, such as weight loss, or they suffer from medical conditions.

Effects of usage
Heroin creates a feeling of carefree euphoria. The drug poses serious health risks and can destroy the normal life of a user.  Heroin takes over because it is extremely difficult to stop using.

How long do the effects last?
Heroin’s effects are not very long-lasting, so the user has to figure out how to get another fix in the next eight to twelve hours.

Effects of withdrawal
Withdrawal symptoms include chills and fever, nausea, diarrhea, aching and muscle spasms. If heroin is not taken when withdrawal occurs, most symptoms can last for three to five days. Detox should not be attempted alone but must instead be medically supervised.

Adverse reactions
Boomers who have taken intravenous drugs such as heroin represent an epidemic of Hepatitis C, a disease that affects the liver and gets progressively worse without treatment, especially if the person drinks alcohol. AIDS-HIV has also been noted as a result of heroin use.

Common effects of heroin use include:

  • Loss of appetite and resultant loss of weight
  • Heart damage and cardiac arrest
  • Slowed breathing
  • Risk in pregnancy of stillbirth and miscarriage
  • Overdose and death
  • Severe bleeding and anemia
  • Chronic sleepiness
  • Constipation
  • Lack of libido
  • Anemia
  • Secretive behavior
  • Mood swings
  • Depression and lack of concentration

Effects of prolonged usage
The effects of regular heroin usage are serious enough that prolonged usage guarantees serious health and quality of life consequences. Heroin used in combination with other drugs is a deadly cocktail. Heroin is never safe.

Usage by youth
The availability of heroin is widespread. The purity of the drug is unknown by the user, so overdose is a high risk.