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Heroin Information

Heroin Addiction

The following information is drawn from the NIDA Research Report Series, Heroin: Abuse and Addiction (http://www.drugabuse.gov/ResearchReports/Heroin/Heroin.html).
What is heroin?
Heroin is a member of the opiate family of drugs. Heroin is derived from morphine; in the brain, heroin is changed back into morphine. Because heroin enters the blood and reaches the brain more quickly than morphine, drug abusers and addicts often abuse heroin instead of morphine. Heroin is a white powder that is most often dissolved in saline and injected into the bloodstream, but it can also be snorted (sniffed) or smoked.
What does heroin do in the body?
After taking heroin, the abuser experiences a “rush,” the intensity of which depends on the amount of drug taken and how the abuser takes it. The rush is accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth, and a heavy feeling in the extremities, which can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and severe itching. Heroin blocks pain messages transmitted from the body. After the initial effects, abusers will be drowsy for several hours. Mental function is clouded by heroin’s effect on the nervous system. Cardiac functions slow; breathing is also severely slowed, sometimes to the point of death. Overdose is a particular risk because the amount and purity of the drug cannot be accurately known.
Treatment for heroin abuse and addiction
The first step in treatment is detoxification to rid the body of the drug. During detoxification, patients adjust to a drug-free state. This stage is short-term and needs to lead to a long-term treatment plan.

Methadone is a synthetic opiate that blocks the effects of heroin and eliminates withdrawal symptoms. Methadone binds to the same opiate receptor that morphine does (remember that heroin breaks down into morphine in the brain). Methadone, however, binds to the receptor more tightly than heroin. People usually take methadone orally one time each day to suppress cravings and withdrawal symptoms for 24-36 hours (four to six times longer than heroin). Methadone is not intoxicating or sedating, and does not produce the feelings of euphoria that heroin does, unless taken in very high doses. Individuals taking methadone do feel pain and have emotional reactions. People can take methadone continuously for many years without problems.

Other drugs used to treat heroin addiction include LAAM and naltrexone, but these are not used as extensively as methadone.

The most effective treatment combines pharmacological approaches (medications) with behavioral therapies. Behavioral therapies may be either on a residential or outpatient basis, but they need to match the needs of the patient.
Long-term consequences of uncontrolled or poorly controlled heroin abuse:
If heroin abuse is untreated, it can lead to the following health problems:
  • addiction
  • scarred and/or collapsed veins
  • bacterial infections of the blood vessels and heart valves
  • abscesses and other soft-tissue infections
  • liver disease
  • kidney disease
  • lung diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis
In addition, the additives in street heroin often include substances that clog blood vessels that lead to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain. Contaminated injection equipment can lead to blood-borne viral infections including hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV, which can then be passed on to other individuals through shared needles or sexual activity.

http://science.education.nih.gov/supplements/nih2/addiction/activities/lesson5_database-heroin.htm
 
Heroin Statistics 

The negative impact of pure Heroin alone can cause a multitude of problems for anyone addicted, however, in its street form, it can have many more impurities mixed into the drug that do not dissolve into the blood stream. These impurities can cause blockages in the circulatory system that can cause many internal organs to shut down.

A Heroin user pays anywhere from $150.00 and up daily to support their addiction.

51 percent of all accidents reported in hospital emergency rooms as far back as 1999 was attributed to Heroin and Morphine abuse, it has increased significantly since then. 
 
3.8 million people (1.5 percent of the population above 12) say they have tried heroin at least once in their lifetimes.

560,000 people used heroin last year. Current estimates suggest that nearly 600,000 people need treatment for heroin addiction.

338,000 people used heroin last month.

The rate of heroin lifetime heroin use is higher among those in prison (23.4 percent for State and 17.9 percent for Federal).

 In the 25 to 49 age group, illicit drug overdose is the fourth leading cause of death, about the same number as motor vehicle crashes.
Children as young as 13 have been found involved in heroin abuse. According to statistics in 1999 heroin overdose has caused more deaths than traffic accidents.
The 1999 National Household Survey on drug abuse (NHSDA) estimated that there were 149,000 new heroin users in 1998 and that nearly 80 percent were under the age of 26.
Of approximately 1.2 million "sometime" heroin users in the US, about 208,000 use it habitually.
 Last year, there were approximately 84,000 visits to emergency rooms in the US due to heroin.
 Over 80% of heroin users inject with a partner, yet 80% of overdose victims found by paramedics are alone.
 The dependent person use between 150 - 250 milligrams per day. Divide into 3 doses.
 The heroin addict spends between $150 to $200 per day to maintain a heroin addiction.
In 1998. 65% of the heroin seized in the United States originated in South America, and 17% came from Mexico.
Slang terms for heroin include: smack, mud, dope, horse, junk, brown sugar, big H, and black tar.
Street names associated with heroin include "smack," "H," "skag," and "junk." Other names may refer to types of heroin produced in a specific geographical area, such as "Mexican black tar."
Good news about teens and heroin substance abuse
Amongst young adults and college students, heroin use is not seeing the decline it has in teenagers. Perhaps this older age group feels the risks are acceptable. A slight increase in heroin users in college students is seen - from 0.1 percent to 0.2 percent. Additionally, in young adults, those reporting that they have used heroin at least once in their lifetimes has increased from 1.7 percent in 2005 to 1.9 percent. It is a small increase, and one that shows that heroin substance abuse among young adults is stable, and perhaps growing slightly.
First time heroin users
According to NSDUH information, in the last year about 91,000 persons over the age of 12 used heroin for the first time. Amongst recent first time heroin users, aged 12 to 49, the average age was 20.7. This indicates that many heroin users wait until they leave their teenagers years to begin using the drug.
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