Heroin is derived from the morphine that comes from the Asian Poppy seed. It is a strong opiate and a highly addictive drug. The finished product can come in two basic forms, either as a white or brown powder or as a black sticky substance known as “black tar heroin.”
Heroin can enter the body through a variety of ways; it can be injected, sniffed (snorted), or smoked. Once heroin is taken into the body, it begins to affect the brain very quickly. Once heroin reaches the brain, it is converted into morphine and binds to opioid receptors located in the brain stem and throughout the body. People who overdose on heroin often stop breathing because breathing and other vital functions are controlled by the brain stem and the heroin interferes with their operation.
Opioid receptors affect the way an individual experiences pleasure and pain. That is why morphine is used in the medical field as a pain reliever. This is also why using heroin gives a person a sense of euphoria and numbness. This initial “rush” is the most noticeable when the drug is injected. These pleasant sensations are accompanied by a myriad of negative ones as well, including dry mouth, heaviness of limbs, flushed skin, and clouded thinking. Once the rush wears off, users usually have trouble staying awake and fall asleep.
Heroin is a drug that builds up a tolerance. This means that its effects are dulled over a period of extended use. Larger and larger quantities of the drug are required to achieve the same effect. Once a person has developed a dependence on heroin, they will have to spend an increasing amount of time and money acquiring it as their tolerance to it increases.
It is unclear exactly how widespread heroin use is, but the number of users is on the rise, particularly among high school aged children. Approximately 23% of people who use heroin will become addicted because of its high dependency rate.