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Heroin

HeroinHeroin is Schedule I in the United States. This means it is illegal to manufacture, buy, possess, or distribute without a DEA license. 

Addictive Potential: High

Emergency Room Visits Yearly: 47,604 in 2003 

Mandatory Minimum Sentence: 5 years for 100-999 grams mixture

Mechanism of Action: mu-opioid receptor agonist

Overview:

White Heroin

White Heroin

Heroin, also known as diacetylmorphine and diamorphine, is a semi-synthetic opioid. Heroin is processed from morphine, which is a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of certain varieties of poppy plants grown in Southeast Asia (Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar), Southwest Asia (Afghanistan and Pakistan), Mexico, and Colombia. It comes in several forms, the main ones being black tar heroin from Mexico (found primarily in the western United States) and white heroin from Colombia (primarily sold on the East Coast).

It mimics endorphin and thus causes a high sense of well-being when entered into the bloodstream (usually through injection). For this reason it is used both as a pain-killer and a recreational drug. It has a high addiction potential, and frequent administration may cause a rapid development of tolerance by the user, especially when compared to other substances. Though occasional use may not lead to symptoms of withdrawal.

Popular street names for heroin include gear, diesel, smack, B, skag, Bobby, black tar, horse, junk, jack, jenny, brown, brown sugar, dark, dope, dragon, bitch, gak, boy, and H. An estimated 898,000 people chronically or occasionally use heroin in the United States (Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2003).

Health Risks Involved with IV Heroin Use:

Injecting heroin is a high-risk behavior that can be further exacerbated by reusing or sharing needles and/or failing to clean the needle with bleach after each use. These actions can increase a user’s risk for blood-borne infections, such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis C, hepatitis B, and herpes simplex virus. Users who use this route of administration also often develop deep vein thrombosis. In 2006, 16 percent of new HIV cases involved intravenous drug use as a mode of transmission, and 27.6 percent of persons living with HIV/AIDS in 2007 could have contracted the disease through intravenous drug use (Samhsa).

Heroin Addiction:

One of the most significant effects of heroin use is addiction. With regular heroin use, tolerance to the drug develops. Once this happens, the user must use more heroin to achieve the same intensity. As higher doses of the drug are used over time, physical dependence and addiction to the drug develop.

Deaths and Overdoses:

Because heroin users do not know the actual strength of the drug or its true contents, they are at a high risk of overdose or death. The effects of a heroin overdose include:

  • Slow and shallow breathing
  • blue lips and fingernails
  • clammy skin
  • convulsions
  • coma
  • possibly death

Additional resources on heroin-related deaths and overdoses:

Substance Identification:

     Mecke Reagent          Marquis Reagent        
Heroin  Green-Blue Red-Purple

(Info provided by Sirchie, 2010)

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