Heroin, an illicit drug made from the opium poppy flower, has contributed to the over 1,600 opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts alone.
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It is estimated that nationwide over 902,000 people have used heroin in the past year, while an estimated 691,000 have developed a heroin use disorder.
The drug in its various formulations has been illegal since 1924 but continues to afflict communities throughout the United States.
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How Heroin Drug Abuse Leads To Addiction
Immediately after a person ingests, snorts, or injects heroin intravenously, they get a rush of euphoria. People who use heroin describe the experience as dream-like.
Heroin also stops your brain from receiving pain messages and slows the heart rate. When too much of the drug is taken, breathing can slow to a halt, and overdose death can occur.
One of the main factors that contribute to heroin addiction is the growing prescription opioid crisis.
Painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone have effects similar to heroin, and people who use these medications often transition to heroin because it’s stronger and less costly.
Methods Of Heroin Abuse
There are several ways a person can use heroin, depending on its form.
Heroin can be used in the following ways:
- injecting heroin intravenously
- skin popping heroin
- snorting heroin in powder form
- smoking heroin in a pipe or on aluminum foil
- rectal administration (“plugging”) of heroin
The most common way to abuse heroin is by injecting it intravenously with a needle. This method provides a near-instant high, but may also lead to overdose or increased risk of disease from using a dirty needle.
Signs Of A Heroin Addiction
The signs and symptoms of heroin use will vary among people based on the severity of their addiction, the amount of the drug being taken, and the frequency of use.
Prolonged heroin addiction will have long-term effects on a person’s physical and mental health. If you suspect someone may be using heroin, there are a range of signs to look for.
Behavioral Signs Of Addiction
When heroin use becomes a priority, a person’s life will suddenly shift to revolve around getting the drug. People may start using heroin-related street slang or become more secretive and dishonest.
You may also notice evidence of heroin paraphernalia lying around. This may include small bags with white residue, missing or burnt spoons, missing shoelaces or belts, glass pipes, and more.
Physical Signs Of A Heroin Addiction
Physical signs of heroin use include sudden and drastic weight loss, scabs bruises, or abscesses on the skin, decreased attention to hygiene, wearing long sleeves in hot weather, and constricted pupils.
People who abuse heroin are also known to “nod out.” Nodding out on heroin refers to passing in and out of consciousness due to the effects of the drugs.
Mental Signs Of A Heroin Addiction
People who use heroin regularly will likely begin exhibiting drastic changes in their personalities due to the physical and psychological effects of addiction.
There are several changes that you may notice in someone who uses heroin. They may include lack of empathy, depression, insomnia, drowsiness, or acting extremely euphoric.
Common Heroin Paraphernalia
Heroin paraphernalia are objects that may be used to take or administer heroin.
Common paraphernalia items may include:
- a needle or syringe used to inject heroin
- a bent or burnt spoon used to cook heroin
- a heroin pipe used to smoke the drug
Types Of Heroin
Heroin comes in many different formulations, including refined pure powder and less-refined forms that are mixed with additional drugs or other substances.
Some of the types of heroin include:
- pure heroin — a white powder form
- cheese heroin — heroin mixed with Tylenol (acetaminophen) pills
- black tar heroin — a sticky, brown, or black tar-like substance
- brown powder — powder heroin refined from black tar heroin
- synthetic heroin — opioids produced in a lab such as fentanyl, methadone, and others
- blue heroin — heroin and fentanyl mixed together
Substances Used To Cut Heroin
Some formulations of heroin are diluted with other substances so drug dealers can sell more of the drug at less of an expense.
Commonly used heroin cutting agents include:
- talcum powder
- laundry detergent
- sucrose (sugar)
- crushed over-the-counter painkillers
While the substances listed above are not necessarily safe to snort or ingest, some cutting agents such as rat poison or fentanyl may cause potentially fatal side effects or overdose.
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