Heroin is an opioid derived from the dried sap of the opium poppy. Opioids have been used for euphoria and pain relief for thousands of years. Heroin is in the same category of painkillers as morphine, its derivatives and codeine. It was brought to China by Arab traders in the eighth century. In later dealings, the British East India Company became a chief supplier and promoter of opium for the Chinese market.

When heroin was first produced, it was thought it would be less addictive than morphine. This did not prove to be true. In England heroin is mixed with alcohol and given as an cocktail to terminally ill cancer patients for pain relief. In the United States, the FDA will not approve it for this use, since it claims that morphine is just as effective (and that heroin is broken down by the body into morphine anyway).

Pure heroin is a white powder that tastes really bad, but you probably won’t see it very often on the street, at school or anywhere. Most heroin sold on the street to teens and adults varies in color from white to dark brown, but most will look like light brown sugar. The color can tell you what country the drug came from.

Effects of Heroin
The effects of heroin include significant pain relief, but as the dose is increased, euphoria is produced. Even at doses where there is strong euphoria, coordination and intellect are only mildly affected. Many people can function fairly “normally” while on heroin, it is the withdrawal of the regular user that can kill them.

At very high doses of heroin, sedation, respiratory depression and coma may occur. People taking opioids with painful medical conditions describe knowing that the pain is present, but not caring. Unfortunately, tolerance quickly develops with heroin, with more and more required just to feel normal. Addiction potential is so high some users become criminals. There are synthetic types of opioid medications, like OxycodoneVicodin and Norco– medicines that are used for acute pain. These can become addictive when not used with care. You may become physically addicted, not psychologically. These drugs need to be weaned off of to avoid seizure.

What is Speedballing?
Speedballing is when heroin and cocaine are injected into the body together. This is a deadly combination, as it enters the body very quickly when injected into a vein. Speedballing will kill you. It is also used by “skin-popping”–injecting the drug just under the skin and not into a vein.

To older Americans, heroin was always a drug that needed to be injected, but the more potent strands readily available today allow the drug to be smoked or sniffed.