Heroin is a highly addictive, illegal drug. It is used by millions of addicts around the world who are unable to overcome the urge to continue taking this drug every day of their lives—knowing that if they stop, they will face the horror of withdrawal.
It is an opioid drug that is synthesized from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of the Asian opium poppy plant. It usually appears as a white or brown powder, or as a sticky black substance known as black tar heroin. Street names include smack, horse, brown sugar, dope, H, junk, skag, skunk, white horse, china water, and cheese. It can be injected, inhaled, or smoked. All three routes rapidly deliver the drug to the brain, which contributes to its health hazards and high risk for addiction. With an overabundance of prescriptions for opioids for pain management being written there is an increasing large group of people addicted to their prescription medications. This is creating a growing segment of society that is moving from prescription opioids to heroin as states are making it harder to purchase prescription medications illegally.
In the past, heroin use was regarded as an inner city problem, but as overdose deaths are increasing, it is obvious that the problem is rampant in affluent neighborhoods as well. Deaths from heroin have risen to what some are calling the worst drug overdose epidemic in United States history.
Signs & Symptoms
If a heroin dependent user abruptly reduces or stops use of the drug, he or she may experience severe symptoms of withdrawal, which can begin as early as a few hours after the last ingestion of the drug. Signs of heroin use include:
- Dry mouth
- Warm flushing of the skin
- Muscle and bone pain
A Success Story
“Adult & Teen Challenge saved my life. My childhood was not what you would call ideal, due to the fact that my dad molested me until I was about 10.
“After being admitted to 4 psych wards and 3 rehab facilities, I had a baby. I turned to pills, heroin, and liquor to deal with life and began having anxiety attacks. By the time I reached the doors of Teen Challenge, I was in rough shape. I had been on 17 different kinds of antipsychotic medications.
“Now, I know that Jesus loves me and NO ONE is “too far gone”. I have peace and hope today because Jesus has broken the bondage that made me such a sad person. I’m also off of all the crazy meds and I’ve never felt so much love for God and my family, especially my son. Thanks to all of the people who support Teen Challenge through their giving, people like me have freedom from addiction and hope for the future!”
Effects of Use
Heroin use is associated with a number of serious health conditions including fatal overdose, spontaneous abortion, and infectious diseases like hepatitis and HIV. Chronic users may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, constipation and gastrointestinal cramping, and liver or kidney disease. Pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia, may result from the poor health of the user as well as from heroin’s effects on breathing.
In addition to the effects of the drug itself, street heroin often contains toxic contaminants or additives that can clog arteries that supply blood to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain, causing permanent damage to vital organs.