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
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.