Heroin is among those infamous drugs that you cannot seem to escape from the news. From hearing stories of overdoses and deaths to addiction, chances are high that you know someone who has a problem with addiction, or you may have been through it yourself. Yes, that same plant that has very fragrant red flowers that you see in paintings also produces poppy seeds that are used in baked goods like bagels and buns, as well as producing the highly addictive drug.
However, do you know everything there is to know, apart from the many names that people use to refer to the drug? Here are some interesting facts on heroin.
The substance comes from pretty flowers
Like we mentioned above, the poppy flower is not as ugly as you think. In fact, it is among the prettiest you can find, but do not allow that beauty to fool you – those seeds are the source of the drug.
The opium plant thrives in a warm climate, and you will find many farmers in these areas growing the plant, for instance in countries such as Afghanistan, Mexico, Pakistan, Iran and China. When the flower is ready, they then collect the opium sap and send it to a broker, who will then take it to a morphine refinery.
Heroin is then manufactured from this sap. Note that the drug is much stronger than morphine by up to two or three times. It is also classified as a Schedule I drug, and it has no medical usage.
Heroin exists in different forms
Heroin exists in two main forms – the pure and impure. When it is pure, it is in form of a white powder that has a bitter taste.
However, the pure powder on its own is very expensive, so dealers tend to ‘cut’ the substance using other products like powder milk, sugar, other drugs or starch. This way, there is greater distribution of the product, and more opportunities to make money. Once the heroin powder is cut, it changes to an off-white color or brown.
In fact, a form of heroin known as ‘black tar’ is black or dark brown in color, while it tends to be hard like coal or sticky like tar.
The use of heroin over the past twenty years has increased sharply. It is no longer limited to the big cities – now the problem has spread to smaller towns as well.
In fact, the usage among young adults between the ages of 18 to 25 has doubled, while overdose deaths have increased by up to six times between 2001 and 2014. In addition, there are now more than half a million Americans that suffer from heroin abuse issues, while heroin related fatalities have increased regardless of gender, age or race.
Why is heroin addictive?
You can blame this on the effect the drug has on the opioid receptors in the brain. The drug produces a short-term effect of euphoric feeling, as it binds to these receptors in the brain and depresses the CNS (Central Nervous System). After the euphoric feeling, you begin to feel drowsy and relaxed.
This effect is highly similar to prescription painkillers, since both drugs are opioids. In fact, they are more similar than you think; the rise in the popularity of heroin is due to the increasing use and addiction to prescription painkillers. When the painkillers become too expensive or the doctor decides to cut them off due to the danger of addiction, heroin becomes a more affordable option to use, and it is more available.
You do not become addicted to the drug after just one use
Addictions take time to happen, and this is still the case for heroin. However, this knowledge does not excuse anyone to use it just once, as the drug remains highly addictive.
Addiction simply means that you are dependent on the drug – meaning you have reached a state of needing the drug in the system for you to function at your best. This state takes a few days or weeks to develop, but certain factors will push you to use the drug more.
The main factor is chasing the ‘high’ – that euphoric feeling you experienced when you first took the drug, and you want to experience it again. However, the feeling never returns in the same intensity, and you need more of the drug to get a similar ‘high’ – that leads to the development of an addiction. This behavior is compulsive, and once you start you cannot stop on your own – unless you seek help. You can find more information on rehabs here.
Even though some statistics show that a single use of heroin does not lead to dependence, you still need to be careful, as you never know how your body will react to the drug.
Note that the drug is more of a depressant than a stimulant. The user begins to lack the energy or drive to do things that they enjoyed, and they experience awful withdrawal symptoms unless they use the drug again.
Among the side effects of heroin use is itching
Once heroin enters the brain, it changes into morphine that binds to opioid receptors in the brain and body – causing a warm flush of the skin as well as euphoria.
However, severe itching is a side effect. This is due to the activation and release of histamines (compounds the body release during an allergic reaction), and these irritate the skin. The user then begins to scratch their skin for relief. This reaction is more common the more pure the heroin is.
Smugglers usually use people as ‘drug mules’ to transport heroin from one country to another, but these ways are very risky. Desperation to not be caught can lead to harmful methods like swallowing the drug, which can cause death.
The use of heroin has been there for hundreds of years, but substantial facts on the drug are still widely unknown. However, it is important to know the truth so that you have the knowledge to combat addictions in the first place.