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Drug Abuse: Heroin

Syringe and vials of drugs

Topics on Drug Abuse:
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From the Mentors
Also known as horse, dope, H, Big H, brown sugar, black tar, smack, skag, mud, Mexican brown, China white

What it is:

Heroin is an opiate, which means that it comes from a flower called the opium poppy. Opiates are used in hospitals as painkillers for patients in serious pain from injury, surgery, or illness; morphine is another opiate that you might see used for medical purposes. Heroin is a brown or white powder that is sometimes snorted or smoked. Most of the time, users turn it into a liquid and inject the drug into their veins with a needle.

People who use it may experience:

  • Euphoria, a "rush" of well-being
  • Reduced pain
  • Dry mouth
  • Droopy eyelids and smaller pupils
  • Flushed skin
  • Heavy arms and legs
  • Slow thinking and movement
  • Slow and slurred speech
  • Periods of sleepiness, sometimes called "the nod"
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation

The big, serious health risks are:

  • Collapsed veins
  • Heart infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Death from overdose

Using heroin is a problem because:

  • Heroin is one of the most physically addictive drugs in the world, and breaking the addiction can be very difficult.

  • Users develop tolerance, meaning that they eventually need more and more of the drug to get the same effect.

  • Because heroin can be expensive, users often turn to crime to get drug money.

  • Sharing needles can lead to infectious diseases, including hepatitis and AIDS.

  • Quitting the drug or "kicking the habit" can lead to bad withdrawal symptoms, including pain, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, cold flashes, and an incredible craving to return to the drug.

  • Quitting suddenly, called "going cold turkey," can lead to death in long-term addicts in bad health.

In the next section we look at Prescription Medications that people sometimes abuse.


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To be a success
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