Heroin Addiction: What Exactly Is Heroin?

November 4, 2021

Heroin addiction is on the rise in the United States since it’s a highly addictive street drug made from morphine, an opioid. 

Morphine, the drug from which heroin is derived, is extracted from the seed of the opium poppy plants. Once the morphine is heroin, it can be a white or brown powder or a sticky black substance known as “black tar heroin.” When it comes to the two forms of heroin, both give a user the same effects. Still, since black tar heroin is mainly made in Mexico (with a few exceptions), it has become increasingly more available on the west coast of the United States. In contrast, the powdered form is more prevalent in other parts of the United States and worldwide. 

While defining what heroin actually is is relatively straightforward, there’s a lot to cover on the topic. Let’s take a closer look. 

Heroin Is an Illegal Non-Prescription Opioid

Since heroin is derived from morphine, it is also an opioid. Opioids are a class of drugs that react to opioid receptors to produce pain-killing effects. Many opioids can be used medically as prescription pain medication or under a doctor’s care for anesthetic purposes. However, heroin, and all forms of it, is not available to be used for any medical purposes and is only sold on the streets.

It’s commonly known that opioids are addictive, and when used for pain-killing purposes, they should only be used as instructed by your doctor to avoid abuse. The misuse of drugs often leads to addiction. Someone might be surprised to know that data shows that “about 80 percent of people who used heroin first misused prescription opioids.” While that statistic might catch someone off guard, it’s unfortunate to say that it makes sense. 

Prescribed opioids and heroin have similar effects to one another. Yet, heroin is often cheaper and easier to find since no prescription is needed to purchase it illegally off the street. So, while heroin is an illegal and hazardous drug, many people who once relied on an opioid medication or misused the drug in one way or another may turn to heroin, developing a heroin addiction. 

Also, note that heroin bought off the street can often contain other substances in the mix. It’s reported that many drug dealers will cut the heroin with fentanyl and sell it as pure heroin to make more money. The use of the common substances in heroin can be toxic and clog the blood vessels leading to the lungs, liver, kidney, or brain, causing permanent damage to those organs.

The Effects of Heroin Use

When heroin enters the bloodstream, it acts like other opioids by reacting with the opioid receptors in the brain, creating a sensation of euphoria, a rush of pleasure, and drowsiness. It can also slow your heart rate and breathing. When the drug wears off, many people experience a depressed feeling then will retake the drug to feel the same “high” as before. This cycle creates drug dependence and will often lead to heroin addiction. 

For someone who has been using heroin for a short amount of time, they might feel or demonstrate the following signs: 

  • Dry mouth 
  • Flushed skin 
  • Clouded thinking 
  • Switching back and forth between conscious and semi-conscious 
  • Severe itching 
  • Nausea and other stomach problems 
  • Heavy limbs 
  • Increased risk of HIV (for those who inject heroin) 

For someone who has been using the substance long-term, these are the effects it has on the body: 

  • Sleeping problems
  • Heart-related diseases 
  • Liver and kidney diseases
  • Long-term mental health disorders and illnesses 
  • Lung problems 
  • Sexual and reproductive problems for both men and women
  • Collapsed veins (for those who inject the drug) 

Steps Recovery Centers for Heroin Addiction Recovery

If you or someone you know needs help to break their heroin addiction, contact the trusted professionals at Steps Recovery Centers. We have centers throughout the state of Utah, in Draper, Payson, and St. George, where our experienced and knowledgeable staff will provide a safe and healthy environment to detox and seek recovery from this highly addictive drug. For more information about heroin addiction recovery and other services, contact us today for a free consultation.

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