Facts About Heroin
Heroin is familiar to most people as an extremely addictive drug which originates from the opium poppy plant. This is the drug which is commonly referred to in films and TV shows when someone needs to have a ‘tragic’ storyline, but many real people become heroin addicts every year in the West, and most of these people suffer addiction until they die. Although heroin is still the same drug that it has always been, recent shifts have seen it move from a mostly-injected drug into a mostly-smoked drug, giving the impression that heroin is moving into middle-class homes and communities.
Heroin Street Names
There are several different street names for heroin, depending upon the country and the region. The most widely used name is ‘dope’, although this can also be used for marijuana. Other common names are ‘smack’, ‘H’, ‘junk’ or ‘horse’. In some areas the drug is named after popular songs which are supposed to mention heroin, such as ‘Golden brown’ or ‘Brown sugar’. It can also be called ‘mud’, ‘skag’ and ‘big H’. There may be different names in different areas, but these names are all referring to one single drug: heroin.
Heroin Psychological Dependence
As well as the tremors and other problems which are familiar to many people who have known drug addicts, heroin can also cause severe mental damage. Heroin often causes addicts to drift away from family and friends, and they may also give up jobs, studies and social activities in favor of taking more of the drug. They may isolate themselves, or have contact only with other drug users. The personality of the addict is partially destroyed, so that inhibitions are broken down, and there is a loss of responsibility.
After long-term use, the psychological dependence on the drug can lead to mental problems which prevent the user from successfully giving up. Depression is a serious problem, and many heroin users become suicidal, considering that life without heroin is purposeless. They may also feel that they have wasted their life and destroyed relationships due to their addiction, which can have serious consequences. Although friends and relatives may be supportive when the person is trying to give up, the effects of their addiction can be too difficult for some users to face, and they may become addicted again very easily.
How Heroin is Produced
Heroin is produced through processing of parts of the opium poppy, and combined with the medicinal drugs morphine and codeine. It is part of the diacetyl-morphine group of drugs, known to act as a sedative. This causes a reaction from the opiate receptors in the brain, triggering the release of a pleasurable substance, one of the endorphins. The opiate sensors are found in the pain conduction channels, the spinal cord, the amygdalae (sexual desire and aggressive feelings), and in the hippocampus and hypothalamus. These triggers form the basis of the addict’s dependence on heroin.
Damage Caused from Heroin Use
Although heroin is really only triggering natural receptors in the brain, in the long term it can have a very serious effect on the brain and the body. One of the most serious areas of the body that can be damaged by heroin is the respiratory organs. As heroin slows down the functions of the body during the sedation period, respiration can also slow down. Death from heroin overdose often results from paralysis of the lungs, leading to suffocation.
The body can also become desensitized to pain. This is another serious problem which can lead to repercussions. When the body is numb, it can become hurt – ordinarily pain would tell the person that their fingers were being burnt, or that they had an infected tooth. Serious infections such as septicaemia may go unnoticed by the addict due to the suppression of the sensation of pain.
A third serious condition caused by the drug is weight loss. Early consumption of the drug will often lead to sickness and nausea, and there may also be problems with constipation. All of these side effects will lead to a loss of appetite, which heroin itself also serves to repress. Severe weight loss and malnutrition are sometimes contributing factors in the death of addicts.