Below are some facts about heroin you need to be aware of.
- Heroin is an opioid made from morphine. It comes in the form of brown or white powder, or a black, sticky tar-like substance.
- It can be injected, smoked, or snorted. It is often cut with other substances, including other drugs, which can make it even more dangerous.
- Heroin works by rapidly entering the brain and binding to various receptors associated with feeling pleasure and pain, and with controlling sleep, heart rate, and breathing.
- About 80% of heroin users in the US report that they started opioid use with a legal prescription from a doctor. However, only 4% of patients who reported misusing legal opioid prescriptions switched to heroin.
- Heroin can cause a sensation of euphoria or numbness that addicts chase.
- Heroin and other opioid deaths have increased significantly in recent years.
- Death from heroin overdose is typically caused by extremely slow breathing, which puts the user in a state of hypoxia, where not enough oxygen reaches the brain. This can have short or long-term effects, or be fatal.
- Short term symptoms of heroin include dry mouth, shrunken pupils, flushed skin, confused or clouded thinking, and a heavy sensation in limbs.
- Long-term effects of heroin use include liver damage, kidney problems, lung damage, collapsed veins, and infection of the heart lining or valves.
- It is very possible to overdose on heroin. Heroin overdose symptoms include slow, shallow breathing, blue lips and/or fingernails, convulsions, clammy skin, and coma.
- Naloxone can be used as an injection or nasal spray to reverse a heroin overdose. It may need to be re-administered as frequently as every 20 minutes in order to reverse the overdose completely. Naloxone can be kept in the home, but always call 911 if you suspect someone has overdosed, even if you have administered Naloxone.
- Heroin is highly addictive. Withdrawal symptoms from heroin include extreme pain in the muscles and bones, insomnia or over-sleeping, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, cold flashes, and intense cravings for heroin.
- Treatment for heroin addiction is widely available. Doctors can prescribe medication to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. Rehabilitation, talk therapy, and group meetings can all be effective forms of heroin addiction treatment.
- Using heroin during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, premature birth, abnormal fetal development, and opiate addiction in the fetus and newborn. Pregnant women should not try to quit heroin cold turkey, but instead see a doctor to safely get off the drug in the best way to keep both the expectant mother and the fetus safe.
More information about heroin and its effects you can find here.