Heroin is a pain-killing drug, which is derived from the dried milk of the opium poppy. Heroin belongs to a group of drugs known as opiates, other opiates include morphine and methadone.
Heroin is also known as smack, H, junk, brown, skag and gear.
What Does Heroin Look Like?
Heroin, when pure, comes as a white powder but it usually contains other substances such as glucose, talcum powder or brick dust. When heroin is impure it comes as a brown powder and usually contains caffeine. Heroin is normally wrapped in small packets of paper.
How Is Heroin Taken?
Heroin can be smoked with tobacco or on its own (smoked heroin is usually brown), snorted through the nose or dissolved and injected. If you choose to inject heroin, make sure you are with other people who can call an ambulance if you overdose.
What are the immediate effects of heroin?
Heroin in small doses can give the user a sense of warmth and well-being. In larger doses it makes the user feel drowsy, relaxed and separate from the real world. These effects can last for several hours.
Snorting heroin means the drug dissolves slowly through the fine skin in the nostrils and enters the bloodstream gradually, the effect is usually felt within 15 minutes.
Smoking is the quickest way of getting heroin to the brain, the effects are almost immediate, causing a warm relaxing surge through the body. Less of the drug is consumed by this method so reduces the risk of overdose.
Injecting the drug is a quick way of getting a lot of heroin directly into the bloodstream and to the brain. Before injecting it has to be mixed with an acid, such as citric acid. Lemon juice should not be used as this can cause a fungal infection in the eyes or heart. Injecting is the most dangerous way of taking heroin.
What Are the Long-term Effects of Heroin?
Heroin is addictive even when smoked and users will need more of the drug to feel good. Some people may take excessive amounts of heroin to maintain this feel good factor and it can result in an overdose, coma and in some cases death. People who inject and share needles are also at risk of dangerous infections like H.I.V. and hepatitis B or C. Injecting can also cause damage to your veins, which can lead to ulcers or gangrene.
People who have been using heroin for some time may require professional help or treatment to overcome their dependence for the drug. Symptoms felt when coming off heroin include flu like symptoms, hallucinations, diarrhoea and fatigue. These symptoms usually last for up to 10 days.
What Class Drug Is Heroin?
In the UK, Heroin is a class A drug, it is illegal to supply and possess without prescription. If you’re addicted to heroin and you want to stop, you can ask your GP or local drug treatment service for help.
This post has been updated since its original publication in 2013.