The drug that is usually abused is heroin. It is a highly addictive drug taken from morphine, obtained from the opium poppy. It acts on the individual quickly, as fast as 3 to 6 seconds. It is a depressant drug. It affects the brain’s pleasure systems and disrupts the brain’s ability to perceive pain. With heroin, pain receptors of the brain are blocked, thus, the person is less likely to feel pain once he/she takes in the drug.
Originally, heroin was promoted as a non-addictive drug. In fact, the name heroin is known as a “heroic treatment” derived from the German word heroisch. From 1898 to 1910, it was marketed as a non-addictive morphine alternative and cough medicine for children. However, in 1924, the United States’ “Heroin Act” made it illegal to possess or manufacture heroin in the country.
Today heroin is typically sold as a brownish powder or as the black sticky substance known as the “black tar heroin”.
Heroin is commonly smoked. A heroin dependent individual usually injects himself four times a day. Intravenous injection supplies the supreme intensity and most quick set of euphoria. With this, the person would feel the rush in as fast as 7 to 8 seconds after injecting. Intramuscular injection produces as slower onset of euphoria. Injection continues to be the predominant method of heroin use among addicted users seeking treatment; however, researchers have observed a shift in heroin use patterns, from injection to sniffing and smoking. In fact, snorting heroin is now the most widely reported means of taking heroin among users admitted for drug treatment.
Heroin works in the brain by converting itself to morphine then binding quickly to the brain’s opioid receptors. The addict would feel a gratifying feeling. The intensity of the rush would depend on the amount of the drug. The rush is usually accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth, and the heavy feeling in the extremities, which may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and severe itching. After the preliminary effects, abusers usually will be drowsy for a few hours. Mental function is clouded by heroin’s effect on the central nervous system. Cardiac function slows. Breathing is also severely slowed, sometimes to the point of death. Heroin overdose is a particular risk on the street, where the amount and purity of the drug cannot be accurately known.
The long-term effect of heroin is another thing to be discussed. Chronic users may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, cellulites, and liver disease. Moreover, the most dangerous long-term effects of heroin is addiction itself. Heroin abuser eventually becomes too dependent on the drug that he/she spends most of his/her time and energy obtaining and using the drug. When addiction sets in, the individual’s primary goal will be to look for and use the substance. Furthermore, with continuous use, this could cause death to the addict.
Heroin addiction is not free from withdrawal symptoms, once the use is stopped. The withdrawal syndrome from heroin can begin within 12 hours of discontinuation of the sustained use of the drug: sweating, malaise, anxiety, depression, persistent and intense penile erection in males, general feeling of heaviness, cramp-like pains in the limbs, yawning and lachrymation, sleep difficulties, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, cramps and fever occur. There is also a considerable danger of tonic-clonic, which can lead to stroke possibly resulting in permanent disability which includes blindness or paralysis, or heart attacks which can potentially be fatal.
Heroin can be greatly fatal among users most especially among those with poor health. Heroin can serve as a teratogen among pregnant users. Among pregnant addicts, not only does the drug affect the user, but it greatly affects the baby.
One of the most dangerous substance abuse is heroin dependency because it can be a cause on why an individual continues to live. Consequently, treatment is not that easy. It takes time, effort, and will power for an addict to be treated.