Heroin and Opiates
Heroin is a highly addictive and rapidly acting opiate (a drug that is derived from opium). Specifically, heroin is produced from morphine, which is a principal component of opium. Opium is a naturally occurring substance that is extracted from the seedpod of the opium poppy.
Heroin was originally created to help cure people of addiction to morphine. Upon crossing the blood-brain barrier, which occurs soon after introduction of the drug into the bloodstream, heroin is converted into morphine, which mimics the action of endorphins, creating a sense of well being and euphoria. One of the most common methods of heroin use is via intravenous injection. Pharmacologically, heroin has the same effect as morphine. But you need only about a quarter as much to get the same effect. Heroin is cheaper, quicker and easier to use than morphine, which is part of its allure to addicts. Heroin is a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs have a high potential for abuse and serve no legitimate medical purpose in the United States. Heroin in all forms is illegal.
All heroin users, not just those who inject the drug, risk becoming addicted. Individuals who abuse heroin over time develop a tolerance for the drug, meaning that they must use increasingly larger doses to achieve the same intensity or effect they experienced when they first began using the drug. Heroin ceases to produce feelings of pleasure in users who develop tolerance; instead, these users must continue taking the drug simply to feel normal. Addicted individuals who stop using the drug may experience withdrawal symptoms, which include heroin craving, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, and vomiting. Heroin users who inject the drug expose themselves to additional risks, including contracting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B and C, and other blood-borne viruses. Chronic users who inject heroin also risk scarred or collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and liver and kidney disease.
Q: If I don't shoot up heroin, am I still an addict?
A: Heroin is injected, snorted, or smoked. Many new, younger users begin by snorting or smoking heroin because they wish to avoid the social stigma attached to injection drug use. These users often mistakenly believe that snorting or smoking heroin will not lead to addiction.
Q: What are the risks of using heroin?
A: Overdosing on heroin is a great risk because the purity of the heroin is unknown. Heroin sold on the street often is mixed with other substances such as sugar, starch, or quinine. An added risk results when heroin is mixed with poisons such as strychnine. Heroin overdoses can result whether the drug is snorted, smoked, or injected, and can cause slow and shallow breathing, convulsions, coma, and even death.
Caron offers a comprehensive range of treatment services that focus on the medical, psychological, psychiatric, clinical, physical and spiritual aspects of one's recovery from heroine, which may begin with a monitored detoxification program in the case of heroin addiction.