An array of myths and rumors have been circulated about heroin use. Today’s entry will focus on some frequently asked questions.
What is Heroin?
- Derived from Morphine, heroin is classified as part of the opiate family. It is sold as a brown or white powder, or as a brown/black tar-like substance
- Heroin is extremely addictive – Physical dependence can result after only a week or so of routine use
- Heroin takes effect very quickly, producing a powerful sense of well being and euphoria
How is Heroin Administered?
Users administer heroin in one of the following 3 ways:
What is Heroin’s Affect on the Brain?
Heroin works to stimulate the opiate receptors located in the brain. When someone uses heroin, the substance moves past the blood brain barrier and fills the brain with opiates. The opiates then engage neurotransmitter receptors in various areas of the brain in charge of pain and pleasure regulation. Once the drug has activated these receptors, the users begin to experience feelings of contentment, euphoria and analgesia.
Over a long enough use period, heroin will begin to alter the addict’s brain chemistry. Chronic heroin use will ultimately result in a reduced number of opiate receptors in the brain. As these numbers dwindle, the user will require more and more heroin to achieve the same initial high.
What Are the Short Term Consequences?
Heroin use can result in nausea and vomiting when taken in large doses or by inexperienced users. Additional short-term consequences include:
- Reduced cough reflux
- Slurred speech and confusion
- Constricted pupils
- Decrease in heart rate and respiration
Overdose is the most extreme consequence of heroin use, which can easily turn fatal. Overdose symptoms include:
- Shallow breathing
- Extremely constricted pupils
- Clammy skin
What Are the Long-Term Consequences?
Potential consequences associated with chronic heroin use include:
- Skin infections
- HIV or hepatitis
- Cognitive impairments
- Organ damage
- Track marks
- Collapsed veinsBotulism