Heroin is a highly addictive drug that is processed from morphine, which is a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of the Asian opium poppy plant.
Heroin can be injected, snorted/sniffed, or smoked. Contrary to popular opinion, all three methods can lead to addiction and other severe health problems.
There is no cookie cutter heroin user. In fact, many of heroin’s newest addicts are in their teens or early 20s; many also come from middle- or upper-middle-class suburban families.
Tolerance to heroin develops with regular use so after a short time, more heroin is needed to produce the same level of intensity. This results in addiction.
Health risks to using heroin include:
High risk of infections such as HIV/AIDS
Infection of the heart lining and valves
When an addict stops using, he experiences physical withdrawal which can begin within just a few hours since the last use. Symptoms include:
Cold flashes with goose bumps
Muscle and bone pain
Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose and can last up to a week. Some people experience withdrawal symptoms for as long as a few months after stopping the drug.
Sudden withdrawal by heavily dependent users who are in poor health can be fatal.
Heroin craving can persist years after drug use stops, and can be triggered by exposure to stress or people, places, and things associated with drug use.
Heroin abuse during pregnancy has been associated with low birth weight which can lead to developmental delays. If the mother is a regular heroin user, the infant may be born physically dependent on heroin and could suffer serious medical complications.
Rehabilitation programs claim that as many as 85% of treated addicts will relapse.