Heroin is an illegal drug that is known as the fastest acting opiate. It is highly addictive, widely abused and sold as a brownish or white powder. It is also made available in the form of a black sticky substance that is usually referred to as black tar heroin. This drug is acquired from the seedpod of poppy plants which are predominantly found in Asia. Heroin is popularly called H, smack, junk and skag. Most street heroin is mixed with other substances like sugar, starch, powdered milk or quinine. An addiction to this substance can be extremely dangerous for a number of reasons – a user may die of an overdose if he or she does not know the actual strength of the drug, he or she could also contract incurable communicable diseases like HIV from sharing needles and other injection equipment.
Heroin can be smoked, snorted or injected. When it is smoked or snorted, heroin takes about 10 to 15 minutes to kick in. However, neither of these methods produce the rush often associated with intravenous injections. Intravenous injection of heroin provides the greatest intensity and fastest onset of euphoria in about 6 to 9 seconds whereas intramuscular injection of the same can take 4 or 9 minutes to set in. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), all three forms of administering heroin are addictive.
The time that it takes for one to get addicted to heroin varies from person to person. NIDA reports and Florida drug rehab experience however suggest that the more important problem is to get a user to admit that he or she is addicted to heroin. With regular use of heroin, one tends to get more tolerant towards the drug which means that the abuser must use more quantity of the same to experience the same effect. As the doses increase with time, one’s physical dependency on the drug increases as well and gradually he or she develops an addiction.
The short-term effects of using heroin sets in after a single dose itself though the effect disappears within a few hours. After the first injection, a user is likely to experience a sudden rush of euphoria, drying of the mouth, warm flushes and heavy extremities. After the euphoria dies out, the user enters an alternately drowsy and wakeful state when the central nervous system experiences depression and this leads to his or her mental functioning getting clouded. Slurred speech, constricted pupils, slow gait and droopy eyes are some other effects one can expect to undergo in this phase.
The long-term effects however set in only after repeated use of heroin over a significant period. These include collapsed veins, abscesses, infection of the heart valves and lining, cellulites as well as liver disease. Pulmonary and respiratory complications have also been noticed among users. In fact, the additives in street heroin that do not dissolve may lead to the clogging of blood vessels and eventual failure of vital organs in the body. Once a person is addicted to heroin, withdrawal symptoms are likely to surface if the regular use is reduced or stopped. Such symptoms surface within a few hours of the last administration and can last for as long as 48 to 72 hours. Withdrawal symptoms include restlessness, drug craving, body pain, diarrhea, insomnia, cold flashes, vomiting, cold turkey and kicking movements. It takes up to a week for the withdrawal symptoms to start subsiding though heavily dependent drug abusers who also have poor health can suffer fatal attacks during this phase.
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