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Opiates / Heroin

The Birth of the Heroin Addiction

It was from opium that morphine, a derivative, was developed as a pain killer around 1810.  It was considered a wonder drug because it eliminated server pain associate with medical operations or traumatic injuries.  It left the user in a completely numb euphoric dream-state.  The addictive properties of morphine went unnoticed until shortly after the Civil War.  Even though no statistics were kept, the problem had grown large enough to raise concerns and doctors were uncertain how to treat this new epidemic.

In 1898, heroin was first manufactured by a German Bayer company and marketed as a treatment for tuberculosis as well as a remedy for morphine addiction.

Heroin is a highly addictive, illegal drug.  It is used every day by millions of people around the world not so much to get “high” but to not have to face the horror of withdrawal.  Heroin overdose can cause slow and shallow breathing, coma, and death.

Heroin can be injected, smoked, or sniffed.  The first time it is used it creates a sensation of being “high” or a surge of sensation- “a rush.”  This is often accompanied by a warm feeling of the skin and dry mouth.  Injecting heroin (shooting) into the blood stream is perhaps the most dangerous way to use.  It delivers the strongest high and often can lead to transmission of several potentially dangerous deadly diseases including HIV, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B as well as bacterial infections of the skin, bloodstream and heart.

When crushed into powder form, heroin can be snorted through the nose.  Snorting heroin also delivers an impactful high although not quite as fast acting as shooting. Heroin is smoked by heating the powder on a piece of tin or   aluminum foil over a flame.  The resulting white smoke is inhaled, sometimes through a tube or rolled foil cylinder.

Heroin in the purest form is a white powder.  More often it is rose gray or brown.  The color comes from the additives used to dilute it which can include sugar, caffeine or another substance.  Street names for heroin include Boy, H, Smack, Dog Food, or Horse.  Heroin can cost as little as $10 per bag (stamp, bindle, or unit) but more often is around $20 a bag.

The CDC provides these statistics:

  • People who are addicted to alcohol are 2X more likely to be addicted to heroin, people addicted to marijuana are 3X more likely to be addicted to heroin, people addicted to cocaine are 15 X more likely to be addicted to heroin, and people addicted to opioid painkillers are 40X more likely to be addicted to heroin.
  • More than 9 in 10 people who used heroin also used at least one other drug.
  • Heroin use more than doubled among young adults aged 10 to 25 in the past 10 years.

Who is most at risk of heroin addiction?

  • People who are addicted to prescription opioid painkillers
  • People who are addicted to cocaine
  • People without insurance or enrolled in Medicaid
  • Males
  • Non-Hispanic whites
  • People who have been addicted to marijuana and alcohol

HEROIN FACT SHEET, click to download

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