In General Knowledge for the Family, Physical & Mental Health

What Heroin Does to Your Body

In a perfect world there would be no such thing as drugs and violence. That being said however, our world is flawed and the best way to avoid addiction and life altering issues is to be prepared and to have as much knowledge as possible. Though heroin was a supremely popular drug in the 1980s, this cheap, easy to get, and easy manufacture drug is making a come back on the streets today. Knowing a bit about this type of drug is just one way to help fight back and avoid substance addiction and abuse.

Heroin History

Heroin is a fairly old drug in and of itself at least as far as the name heroin goes. In ancient Mesopotamia, opium poppy was cultivated and grown as far back as 3400 BC. This opium was used as a pain killer and what also used to get high and experience visions and other religious practices. In 1874, diacetylmorphine was created by Alder Wright, a chemist in England that was working at St. Mary’s Hospital in London. He had been working on a series of experiments that involved combining morphine with other substances and acids. He boiled anhydrous morphine, the common morphine of the time, with acetic anhydride and acetylated morphine was born. This morphine was then later sent to FM Pierce of Owens College in England for analysis.

After a series of medical tests were carried out on animals, the chemist noted that fear and sleepiness were reported quickly after the drug was administered. The subjects had sensitive eyes, they salivated, had a slight tendency to vomit and respiration often quickened. The heart was strained and action diminished making muscular movements somewhat spasmatic. The morphine was not altered and became popular in the form that he had created. 23 years later however Felix Hoffman reformulated it in Germany in an effort to produce codeine.

This however was not the case and heroin as we know it today was born. The Bayer company then picked up the product and began to market it. This made for a very powerful drug that had the ability to help reduce pain and elevate moods. This was first marketed as a non addictive morphine substitute long before it was discovered that heroin actually metabolizes into morphine. In the US in 1914 the drug could only be bought if the doctor had prescribed it to the patient. In 1925 the drug was banned all together and the demand for it skyrocketed.

Heroin Administration

There are a few different ways that you can administer heroin both in a medical sense and in the sense that you are addicted to it. There are five different methods through which heroin can be administered and ingested. They are as follows, oral, injection, smoking, insufflation, and suppository. The way that the effects present themselves varies dependant on the method that the heroin is taken into the system.

Looking first at oral ingestion, this is the most likely method of ingestion if you are taking it not for recreational use, but rather for medial reasons. This method is much slower when it comes to the effects being seen. In most cases, the heroin has to be completely metabolized before you see any of the effects with oral ingestion. In this case, you may also have to take much more to be able to see any effects as this type of ingestion does not provide as fast results.

The next method you may run into is injection. This is the method that most addicts choose to use. This is one of the fastest ways to get the effects of the heroin being taken. This can be called slamming, banging, and shooting up depending on what the addict chooses to call it. This is a very popular method for street users as it provides a very fast effect and a very intense high. This is also one of the most dangerous ways to ingest heroin as it goes directly to the blood and can lead to overdose in a matter of minutes. This form of ingestion requires nothing more than water to make it into a liquid before it is injected. The dose of heroin depends on the user and how often they use. If a user uses the heroin once or twice a week, the concentration is likely to be higher, those users that are using it much more often will likely use smaller doses as it will take less to get them high. The main risk with injection in users is that in many cases, needles are not sterilized and can even be shared which can lead to the spread of diseases like AIDS, HIV, and Hepatitus. Sharing the materials that are used to ingest heroin through the veins can lead to death on their own without the help of the drug at all. The most common place that addicts choose to inject is the feet between the toes and in the bends of arms and legs as these areas are thin and have access to large veins.

Another popular way to take heroin is through smoking. This means vaporizing the heroin and then inhaling the vapors. This is commonly done among those that prefer not to shoot up so to speak. Those that smoke heroin often use glass pipes, aluminum foil, and spoons to vaporize their drugs. This is a relatively easy way to ingest heroin that does not require the use of needles or snorting it up the nose.

Still another popular ingestion method is insufflation. This means snorting the heroin up the nose. In most cases, the user crushes the heroin into a fine powder then uses either a rolled up piece of paper or a straw to inhale the powder. When the heroin is absorbed through the soft tissue of the mucous membranes in the nose and nasal cavity, the user experiences a high very quickly. The duration of this high however is much less than that or oral or injected ingestion. When a user snorts heroin, they do not experience the rush that is common with injection because the drug is absorbed slowly rather than all at once.

The last method you may come in contact with is the suppository method. This is just what it sounds like, the user either inserts the drug directly into the anus or vagina. This is often carried out using an oral syringe that should be used for administering medication. In this case, the heroin is dissolved and then drawn into an oral syringe then inserted into the anus or vagina to be absorbed. This is a quick way to get high but much like with the nose, this is a temporary high that is slower than those of other methods. This is also known as plugging.

Signs of Heroin Addiction

There are a few different signs that you can look for to determine if someone you know is addicted to heroin. The first and most obvious way to figure out if someone is addicted to heroin is to determine what happens when someone ingests heroin. The first thing that likely happens is shortness of breath followed by, dry mouth, constricted pupils, sudden changes in behavior, disorientation, alertness followed by nodding odd, and drooping extremities. Another way you can start to determine if someone is using heroin is to look for certain items in their possession. These are things like straws with burn marks, plastic bags with white residue, burned silver spoons, needles and syringes, missing shoelaces, and more. These are just some items that a heroin user might have in their possession.

Another way to tell if someone is addicted to heroin is to look for behaviors like increased sleeping, stealing or borrowing money from family and friends, decline of self esteem, long pants and sleeves in hot weather to hide needle marks, worsening of performance in school or work, avoiding eye contact, deceptive behavior and lying, and garbled speech. These are just some signs of heroin abuse, each abuser is different and may experience different symptoms. It is important that if you see someone that you know or care about doing any of these things that you take the time to see if they need help and figure out how to keep them from slipping into the life of someone that cannot come back from heroin addiction.

You can always ask your friends if they are addicted to drugs but that can lead to friendships being lost, people being lost, and the ability to help them being lost. The best method is to watch closely and see if you can determine what they are doing with their money, why they are acting strangely, and figuring out what you can do to help them in the long run. It is always helpful to have more than one person to help with an intervention to see if you can help those that you feel may be suffering from heroine addiction.

Medical Use

Though most people associate a drug like heroine with specifically recreational use, it can be used for medical purposes. In the UK for instance diamorphine, or heroin is prescribed as a strong analgesic for pain and it is given via injections or intravenously. This is used to treat acute pain, and even can be used in the end stages of cancer or in cases of heart defect or attack. This strong of an opiate is only used under the strict supervision of a doctor or licensed medical professional that knows how to work with patients that may end up suffering from an overdose. This type of administration is only used for those patients that are suffering from intense pain that lesser opiates will not help cure.

In most cases, this type of medication is not widely used in the United States. In the United Kingdom however, this is a somewhat common medication that is routinely used in hospitals. This medication is cheap enough for doctors to get, helps manage pain effectively, and is fast acting so that patients can begin to be relieved of their pain quicker than with other medications. In recreational settings however, the dosage is altered to provide a high rather than to manage pain.

Treatment, What Can You Do

In some cases an intervention and support is enough to help the addict come down off their high and come back to a clean way of living. This is likely only going to be true for those users that are not heavy users. This means those that do not use more than once or twice in a month. In the case of users that are not all that far into addiction, you may be able to use behavioral therapy to get them back on the right track.

For those users that are a bit more into the drug scene and use up to once or twice a week, pharmacological intervention may be necessary. When someone comes off opiates they experience a number of withdrawal symptoms. These can include but are not limited to pain, nausea and vomiting, and even diarrhea. They may also have hallucinations, convulsions and more. There are some medications out there that are ideal for treating addiction. Methadone is often used to help step down addicts and get them back to a clean lifestyle. Agonids will activate the opioid receptors that will help clean out the system quickly. Partial agnoists are going to help produce a smaller reaction and antagonists block the receptors all together which will help with a rapid step down. If you or someone you love is experiencing a heroin or other drug addiction the best thing you can do is get professional help to get them back to a clean way of living.

It is far easier to get professional help than it is to try and take matters into your own hands. You can also help get your loved ones back on track by letting them know that you care for them and that they have the help that they need if they are willing to accept it.

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