What exactly is heroin?
Heroin is an illegal, highly addictive drug processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance in certain varieties of poppy plants.
The seed pod of the poppy flower contains a milky sap – opium – which is extracted and refined to make morphine. Different forms of heron s produced by further refining.
Are there different forms of heroin?
Pure heroin is a white powder with a bitter taste.
It predominantly originates in South America and Southeast Asia. Heroin is “cut” with sugars, starch, powdered milk or quinine and can be rose grey, brown or black. The colouring comes from the added additives. In Mexico sticky tar-like heroin, called “Black Tar” heroin, is produced, mainly sold in the USA.
The combination of heroin with other toxic chemicals makes it difficult to determine its potency. As a result, users play Russian roulette with their lives when using it.
How do people use heroin?
Heroin can be injected, smoked or sniffed.
Nyaope, also known as Whoonga, is a uniquely South African street drug concocted from rat poison, heroin, detergent powder, anti-retro-viral drugs, milk powder, pool cleaner, etc. bicarbonate of soda.
What happens when you use heroin?
Heroin enters the brain quickly and creates a feeling of being high – a “rush”.
The person feels elated, extroverted and may enjoy a sensation of heightened sexual performance. Other effects are a warm feeling of the skin and a dry mouth. Some people experience nausea, vomiting or severe itching. These effects may only last a few minutes.
The ”After lapse”
Drowsiness follows the initial high for several hours. Breathing and heart rate slows down as the drug’s effect decreases.
The body starts craving another dose of heroin as the person begins to experience withdrawal from the drug. As a result, regular users experience extreme physical discomfort if they don’t take another amount of heroin. Symptoms range from severe body aches (abdominal and bones), restlessness, diarrhoea and vomiting.
Every time the person uses heroin, they need to increase the dosage to achieve the same high or to feel “normal”. Heroin blocks the body’s ability to perceive pain. As a result, users quickly and easily become entangled in a spiral of using, frequent skin infections, and overdose risk where all bodily functions shut down. Users also face the risk of blood clots causing fatal heart attacks, pulmonary embolism or strokes resulting from additives in the heroin that didn’t dissolve properly.
What are the side effects of heroin?
· Shortness of breath
· Dry mouth
· Constricted (small) pupils
· Sudden changes in behaviour
· Cycles of hyper-alertness followed by suddenly nodding off
· Droopy appearance, as if extremities are heavy
Long term side effects
· Bad teeth
· Inflammation of the gums
· Cold sweats
· Weakening of the immune system
· Respiratory (breathing) illnesses
· Muscular weakness, partial paralysis
· Reduced sexual capacity and long-term impotence in men
· Menstrual disturbance in women
· Inability to achieve orgasm (women and men)
· Loss of memory and intellectual performance
· Pustules on the face
· Loss of appetite
Behavioural signs of addiction:
· Addicts lie about most things.
· They avoid eye contact.
· The time they spend sleeping increases notably.
· Their speech may be incoherent or slurred.
· School or work performance suddenly decline.
· Job loss or expulsion from school.
· They lose interest in hygiene and physical appearance.
· They lose motivation and feel apathy toward future goals.
· They draw from friends and family instead of spending time with new friends with no natural tie.
· They lose interest in hobbies and favourite activities
· They steal or borrow money from family or friends; valuables around the house ”disappear” inexplicably.
· They become hostile towards family members, blaming them for their problems.
· They voice dissatisfaction with themselves as their self-esteem declines.
· They tend to wear long sleeve tops and pants to hide needle marks, even in hot weather.
Heroin & Pregnancy
The bad news is that heroin passes through the placenta to the fetus during pregnancy. It causes the baby to become dependent on heroin. Heroin use during pregnancy can result in Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).
Symptoms of NAS include:
Excessive crying, fever, irritability, seizures, slow weight gain, tremors, diarrhoea, vomiting, and possibly death.
NAS requires hospitalisation and treatment with medication (often morphine) to relieve symptoms; the medicine is gradually tapered off until the baby adjusts to opioid-free.
What happens if you go into heroin withdrawal?
Withdrawal can be intense and include vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, confusion, aches and sweating.
Note: Withdrawal is a medical emergency.
Most rehabilitation facilities in South Africa do not deal with withdrawal – the patient has to go to a medical emergency department of their nearest hospital for admission and treatment. The hospital transfer will then transfer the patient to a rehabilitation facility for long term treatment once withdrawal symptoms subside.
What happens if you overdose on heroin?
Overdose is a dangerous and deadly consequence of heroin use. A large dose of heroin depresses heart rate and breathing so that a user cannot survive without medical help.
Naloxone is an opioid receptor antagonist medication that can eliminate all signs of opioid intoxication to reverse an opioid overdose.
The enormous increase in overdose deaths from prescription opioid abuse increased the demand for opioid overdose prevention services. Naloxone is a product that allows non-medical personnel (family to save the life of an addict. Naloxone’s hand-held auto-injector called Evzio delivers a single dose of Naloxone into the muscle or under the skin of a person that overdosed. Thus, it buys time until medical assistance can arrive. In addition, since family members or caregivers can use Evzio, it dramatically expands access to Naloxone.
Drug detection times
Please use these figures as a guide only:
Codeine: 1 day in urine and up to 12 hours in blood
Heroin: 3-4 days in urine and up to 12 hours in blood
Methadone: 3-4 days in urine and 24-36 hours in blood
Morphine: 2-3 days in urine and 6-8 hours in blood
If you have more questions on heroin addiction, you may chat with an online facilitator on the LIVE CHAT. It is a text-based chat and you may remain anonymous.
You can do a self-test on substance addiction – Substance Abuse Quiz
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