What is Heroin?
Heroin is considered to be a very powerful narcotic drug which is seriously addictive. It is classed medically as a depressant, which relates to the feelings of drowsiness which the heroin addict often suffers from. Heroin is often taken by either smoking, or by injection. There are three essential types of heroin, known as black tar, brown, or white powder. These different types of the drug have different effects.
How is Heroin Made?
Heroin is produced from the opium poppy. The seeds of the poppy (grown in some parts of Afghanistan, Eastern Europe and Southern America) are ground down until they produce the powder known as morphine. Opium can also be extracted from the milk of the poppy, which can be divided into morphine and codeine. Heroin is extracted from these substances in the form of a very white powder, and then placed into large bundles, wrapped in plastic to protect it from damp. When heroin arrives at the dealer’s house, it is usually ‘cut’, that is mixed with a number of other powdered substances ranging from harmless items such as sugar or milk powder to quinine, washing powder, or even strychnine. This is then sold on the streets.
How is Heroin Grown?
Despite many attempts by governments to close down farming communities who grow opium poppies, they are still widely available. Estimates suggest that more than 200,000 hectares are currently being used to grow the drug. This is calculated at around 5,000 metric tons of opium. Around 89 percent of the world’s heroin is brought in from Afghanistan, although other countries in the world also contribute a small amount.
What Does Heroin Look Like?
The most familiar idea of heroin, when a person is asked “What is heroin?” is that of a bag of loose white powder. This is the form in which it is available to most people today. This form of heroin is easy to inject, although it can sometimes be more potent than in the past, making the risk of overdose considerably higher. The person using the drug can also take it through a glass pipe, rather like a methamphetamine or crack pipe. Smoking the drug is more popular in some areas of the West, as it is considered less stigmatizing than injecting heroin. There is also less risk of contracting AIDS by using a pipe.
Black tar heroin is so called because it looks rather like a black roll of tar. This type of heroin is extremely potent, and it is easy for beginners to overestimate the amount needed. For a beginner, only a very small amount, less than that of a pea, should be used. The black tar is then heated up over a spoon using a small flame. This type of heroin has to be injected quickly after it has been heated.
What are the Effects of Heroin?
Like other products of the opium poppy, the users of heroin start to feel very happy, and can experience the loss of both emotional and physical pain. The feelings of warmth and detachment can also help to reduce anxiety. After this, the person starts to feel more sedated, and may fall asleep, or become unresponsive (known as being “on the nod”). In extreme cases, when an overdose has been taken, the user may slip from sedation into a coma leading to death.
After repeated use, addiction begins. The first symptoms of this are a decrease in euphoria when the drug is ingested. More and more heroin is needed to produce the same effects as before. This will lead to people giving up employment, or even turning to theft, in order to support their craving and allow them more time to take drugs.
Once addiction has begun, people may experience withdrawal symptoms soon after the drug wears off. These include pains in the muscles and joints, chills, and feelings of depression and anxiety. These feelings make the heroin habit extremely difficult to kick, and although people do come off of heroin successfully, many people struggle to do so in the long term, leading to repeated bouts of re-addiction and admittance to a withdrawal clinic. This is particularly true where the heroin addiction is associated with other problems, such as alcoholism or addiction to other drugs.