Heroin is a highly addictive OPIATE which has been extracted from morphine, a natural substance in the seed pod of certain poppy plants.

It was first synthesized in 1874 and soon widely accepted for medicinal use, before physicians were aware of the potential for addiction. Finally, in 1914, the Harrison Narcotic Act made it an offence to possess or use heroin.

Pure heroin is usually a white powder with a bitter taste, but most street-grade heroin varies from white to dark brown, due to impurities or additives. Heroin can be injected, smoked, or snorted -- smoking and snorting are gaining popularity, especially among youth.

Intravenous users (those who are injecting) usually experience the rush within 7 to 8 seconds after putting a needle in their arm; intramuscular injection takes 5 - 8 minutes to produce euphoria.

When heroin is sniffed or smoked, the peak effects of the drug are usually felt within 10 - 15 minutes.

Tolerance develops after a time of regular use, and then the user must use more of the drug to achieve the same intensity or effect.The end result is, of course, dependence or addiction.

Withdrawal can produce craving, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, shivering ("cold turkey") and vomiting. Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 - 72 hours after the last dose, and subside after about a week.


Because of its affects on the central nervous system, heroin can cloud mental functioning, and slowed breathing can result in respiratory failure. Repeated use of heroin can result in collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses (at the needle entry points), and liver disease. Pulmonary complications, including pneumonia, may also result. An overdose can cause slow and shallow breathing, convulsions, coma, and death.

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