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What is it?

An opiate is a drug derived from the opium plant. The main opiates are morphine, codeine, and heroin. Opiates are also referred to as narcotics. Narcotic addicts, when faced with shortages in their supply, often substitute various narcotic drugs for others. Heroin is the most widely-abused illicit narcotic in the U.S.

Slang Terms:

Smack, morphine, courage pills, brown sugar, black tar, H, junk, horse, gunpowder, hard candy,  bomb, chiva, mud, noise, dope, skag, China White.

Intoxicated Terms:

Being under the influence of heroin is referred to as being “on the nod.”

How is it used?

Heroin can be injected intravenously, intramuscularly, or just beneath the skin (subcutaneously). It may also be snorted or smoked.

Sign of usage:

The user displays droopy eyelids, constricted pupils, and sluggish, delayed speech and mannerisms. The opiate user will appear very drowsy and have difficulty with mental functioning and attention span. If the user administers the drug with an injection, there will be needle marks and possible signs of infection at injection sites.

Effects of usage:

The short-term effects of heroin abuse appear soon after a single dose and disappear in a few hours. After an injection of heroin, the user experiences a feeling of euphoria (“rush”) accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, a dry mouth, and heavy extremities.

How long do the effects last?

Heroin’s effects appear almost immediately after its use if injected intravenously and last for several hours. If injected intramuscularly, a rush will be produced within five to eight minutes, and the effects of sniffing can be felt within ten to fifteen minutes.

Effects of withdrawal:

Withdrawal, which in regular abusers may occur as early as a few hours after the last dose, produces drug craving, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps, and kicking movements. Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose and subside after about a week.

Adverse reactions:

Heroin purity varies greatly, a fact that makes heroin use that much more dangerous. Too much pure heroin can result in respiratory arrest and death. For those users with already compromised physical health, respiratory complications can result due to the drug’s depressing effects on respiration.

Effects of prolonged usage:

Chronic users may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, cellulitis, and liver disease.

Usage by youth:

Among students heroin use is low when compared with other drugs of abuse. Current reported use of heroin is less than 1% by high school students. The average age for the first time heroin user is 19.8 years.

Recent Developments:

With the advent of HIV and Hepatitis preferred administration of heroin has changed from injection to snorting and smoking. Squirting or dripping heroin that has been dissolved in water up the nose from a small plastic bottle is called shebanging and is gaining in popularity. Combining heroin with other illicit drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy in capsules has also increased accessibility of the drug and a new nightclub crowd of users.

Information provided by Dr. Barbara A. Krantz, Chief Medical Officer at the Hanley Center

First Check Diagnostics, LLC is offering these resources for informational purposes only, and the Hanley Center is no way affiliated with any of the entities that provide the resources.