Heroin Essay Research Paper HEROIN

Heroin Essay, Research Paper


Heroin is a highly addictive drug derived from morphine, which is

obtained from the opium poppy. It is a “downer” that affects the brain’s

pleasure systems and interferes with the brain’s ability to perceive pain.

Heroin can be used in a variety of ways, depending on user preference and

the purity of the drug Heroin can be:

- Injected into a vein (”mainlining”) .

- Injected into a muscle

- Smoked in a water pipe or standard pipe, mixed in a marijuana joint

or regular cigarette

- Inhaled as smoke through a straw, known as “chasing the dragon”

- Inhaled as powder via the nose

Heroin is a fast-acting drug, especially when injected or smoked. Injected

heroin reaches the brain in 15 to 30 seconds; smoked heroin reaches the brain

in 7 seconds. The high from heroin is experienced as intense pleasure. Once a

person begins using heroin, they quickly develop a tolerance to the drug and

need more and more to get the same effects.

Heroin is purer now than it has ever been. In 1980 the average bag of

street heroin was 4% pure; the average street bag today is 40% pure and can

be as pure as 70% . Increased purity results in users snorting and smoking

rather than injecting the drug. Sellers cut and package heroin for injectors

and for inhalers differently. Purity is lower in the South and the West than in

the Northeast and Midwest.

It is extremely difficult to estimate how many people use heroin. There is

agreement among epidemiologists that heroin is the most under-reported drug

in terms of usage and that any usage statistics are unreliable. Estimates range

from 428,000 past-year heroin users (National Household Survey, 1995) to

600,000 past week heroin users (Office of National Drug Control Policy). On

the other hand, some experts estimate that as many as 2 to 3 million people in

the United States use heroin recreationally.

Heroin initially produces a feeling of euphoria that often is followed by

drowsiness, nausea, and vomiting. Users also may experience constricted

pupils, watery eyes, and itching. An overdose may produce slow and shallow

breathing, clammy skin, convulsions, coma and death.

Tolerance develops rapidly. The use of contaminated syringes may result

in diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis. Addiction in pregnant women can

lead to premature, stillborn, or addicted infants who experience severe

withdrawal symptoms.

Once a person begins using heroin, he or she quickly develops a tolerance

to the drug and needs more and more to get the same effects. Within one

month, a new user might need much more than his/her initial dose to get


Many heroin addicts have intense cravings for heroin but find it takes more

and more heroin to get high. A regular dose simply results in reduction of the

extreme discomfort associated with withdrawal –getting straight or being not

sick– but doesn’t lead to the good feelings of being high.

Many users switch to injection as a more economical way of use. It takes

less injected heroin than smoked or snorted heroin to achieve the same


Heroin is psychologically and physically addictive. The acute physical

withdrawal is grueling and lasts up to 72 hours. During this time, symptoms

include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, cramping, and severe shaking. It can take

months or even years to recover from the physical addiction, and fighting the

psychological addiction is a lifetime battle. During this “protracted”

withdrawal, recovering addicts battle cravings and depression.

Some negative effects of heroin areslowed and slured speech,

slowgait,constricted pupils, droopy eyelids, impaired night vision ,dry skin,

itching, skin infections ,vomiting (at first use, and later at high doses)

,constipation ,”nodding off” (at very high doses), decreased sexual pleasure,

indifference to sex ,sedation proceeding to coma ,respiratory depression, HIV

infection from injection ,can impair immune system, addiction ,reduced

appetite, slow, irregular heart rate ,irregular blood pressure, menstrual

irregularity ,and death from overdose.


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