Heroin (also called Diacetylmorphine or Diamorphine) is a drug. It is an opioid - a type of drug which acts like morphine in the body. Heroin is called a semi-synthetic opioid, meaning that it was created from an opioid that occurs in nature (morphine). Heroin is a white or brown powder made from the sap of the poppy plant. It is an analgesic drug (a painkiller), and its effects are like other drugs that come from the poppy plant sap, like opium and morphine.
People smoke or inject heroin to get a calm feeling of relaxation called "being high," or "euphoria". Heroin is a very addictive drug. This means that once a person starts taking heroin, they will want to take more and more, even if using heroin makes them sick or harms them. Heroin is an illegal drug in many countries, unless it is used to treat a medical problem.
Legality[change | edit source]
It is illegal to make, sell, and use heroin in most countries, unless a doctor has prescribed it to a person to treat a medical problem. Many people smuggle heroin and sell it illegally on the streets to make money.
Dangers of using heroin[change | edit source]
If people use heroin, they may overdose (take too much), which can make them very sick or even kill them.
When people take heroin, they get "high," or intoxicated (like being drunk on alcohol). When a person is intoxicated, they can get hurt if they drive a car or other vehicle. Also, when a person is intoxicated, they may do dangerous things, like having unsafe sex or being violent towards others.
Another danger is "withdrawal", which can happen when a person stops using heroin. As with other addictions, withdrawal is a painful, unpleasant process that involves physical and mental symptoms. Withdrawal is most common when people stop using heroin suddenly, or when a person who has been using heroin for a while tries to stop. However, a person can have withdrawal symptoms even after using heroin for just 3 days. Physical symptoms often include bad body aches, hot and cold sweats, chills, restlessness, diarrhea, and problems with eating and sleeping. (Sometimes withdrawal feels like a very bad case of the flu.) People can also have very strong psychological symptoms of withdrawal, like depression and strong cravings for heroin. Many heroin users are very afraid of withdrawal. Withdrawal - and fear of withdrawal - is one of the most common reasons why people have trouble quitting heroin. Medications like methadone and Suboxone are sometimes used to treat or prevent withdrawal symptoms, and to decrease cravings for heroin.
Injecting heroin can be very dangerous. A person can get infections by using a needle that has not been cleaned properly. Also, if people share the same needle, they can infect each other with diseases that travel in the blood, like HIV or hepatitis C. People can also get diseases by having unsafe sex while they are high on heroin.
Street names[change | edit source]
There are many slang names, or street names, for heroin. These names are different in different places. Some of the most common are Dope, Horse, Junk, H, and Smack.
Heroin history[change | edit source]
Heroin was first made in 1898, by the Bayer Company in Germany. At first, it was used as a cough medicine and a painkiller. People thought that heroin would help decrease morphine and opium addiction. But after twelve years, doctors realized that people became strongly addicted to heroin. In 1914, the United States passed the Harrison Act. This was the first of many attempts to control the use of heroin.
The word heroin comes from the German word heroisch, which means powerful and heroic.