What is Heroin?

Heroin is a highly addictive and rapidly acting opiate (a drug that is derived from opium). Specifically, heroin is produced from morphine, which is a principal component of opium. Opium is a naturally occurring substance that is extracted from the seedpod of the opium poppy. Heroin that is sold on the street is rarely pure. A "bag," or single dose, may contain a small amount of powder. In the past, very little of the powder was likely to be heroin. Most of the bag was filled with such additives as milk, sugar, powdered milk, or quinine. In 1980, the average bag was only 4 percent pure heroin. By the mid-Nineties, however, purity was generally 40 percent or higher. In the twentieth century purity commonly ranges between 60 and 75 percent. Street names for 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."Heroin is most commonly found as a white or brown powder. It is thought that the Arab traders during the 7th and 8th century AD took opium to China where it was used medicinally up until the 17th century. Heroin has a very long history of use throughout the world.

History of Heroin

Poppy plants have been grown as far back as 3400 B.C., but it was only in the 19th century that use became widespread across the world at large. In the late 1800s, opium was a popular, commonly available drug. Drug users frequented opium dens which were located along the 'Wild West' region of America. Opium was smuggled in and sold by Chinese immigrants who came here to work on the railroads. There is a typical picture of the western cowboy drowning himself in whiskey at a bar after a rough ride on the dirt roads. It was more likely however, that he was lying in a dimly lit room, smoking opium in the arms of an oriental prostitute. They often spent several nights and days at these dens, smoking opium, until eventually, their bodies became addicted to it. In 1810, morphine, a derivative of opium, was developed as a pain killer. It eliminated pain caused by medical operations and severe injuries. Soon after it was administered, it produced an intense, dream-like state of euphoria. Hence, it came to be christened "morphine", after Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams.

Heroin was originally created in 1874 by a British chemist working in London named C.R. Alder Wright. Heroin was formed by creating a concentrated form of morphine, a drug already in use as a painkiller. A pharmaceutical company in Germany registered it as a trademark under the name "Heroin". After its initial conception, heroin received no notoriety in the United States until 23 years later, when a different chemist named Hoffman, who was working for the Bayer Company, synthesized the compound in an attempt to create a morphine substitute that wouldn't have the same addictive properties. The resulting drug, Heroin, was hailed by doctors as a miraculous cure for pain. In the praise of heroin however, its detrimental addictive properties went unnoticed until after the Civil War ended .Thousands of soldiers became morphine addicts during the civil war and within a span of ten years since the invention of heroin, and America was now in the grip of a major morphine epidemic. Shortly after, heroin was imported into America and aggressively marketed to doctors and their patients as a "safe, non-addictive" substitute for morphine. For the next several decades, it was sold legally and prescribed freely by physicians all over the country.

The history of heroin smoking and the subsequent development and spread of 'chasing the dragon' happened in the early 1920's The first heroin smoking originated in Shanghai and involved use of porcelain bowls and bamboo tubes, thereafter spreading across much of Eastern Asia and to the United States over the next decade. 'Chasing the dragon' was a later refinement of this form of heroin smoking, originating in or near Hong Kong in the 1950s, and refers to the ingestion of heroin by inhaling the vapors which result when the drug is heated-typically on tin-foil above a flame. Subsequent spread of 'chasing the dragon' included spread to other parts of South East Asia during the 1960s and 1970s, to some parts of Europe during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and to much of the world since the 1980's.

In the early 1900's, heroin was marketed as a non-addictive substitute for morphine, as well as a children's cough suppressant. Heroin was now being produced by Bayer and also sold legally for the treatment of opiate addiction, alcoholism and other assortments of ailments. It was still believed that heroin was not addictive, or so the doctors were told by the drug companies at that time. This continued until it was found that, after heroin enters the body, it is actually converted back into morphine. Eventually, in 1920, the US Congress passed the Dangerous Drug Act, banning the sale of heroin over the counter and making its distribution federally regulated. Drug companies were required to stop producing heroin, but it was too late already. Tens of thousands of citizens had already been addicted and a market for heroin had been created. Today this heroin market still exists and is growing. Throughout history, heroin and its opiate counterparts have wreaked havoc upon many civilizations. Nowadays, heroin is a well known street drug that is highly addictive. Many individuals have abused heroin and subsequently have developed an addiction to this potent, often deadly drug. Addiction to heroin or other opiates can cause severe damage with long term use. Because of this, there are now many drug addiction treatment centers nation-wide that help individuals to stop using heroin and offer them tools to ensure long term recovery. Because of the high percentage of overdoses involving heroin abuse, it is imperative that drug treatment is made available to an individual at the earliest possible stage of the addiction.



  • Long term effects of heroin use are collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, cellulites, liver disease, pulmonary complications and overdose.

  • Withdrawal symptoms of heroin abuse are heroin craving, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, and vomiting.

  • When heroin is "cut" on the streets in can contain deadly poisons.

  • Heroin withdrawal and side effects adversely influence the body.s physiological systems.

  • Injecting heroin into the bloodstream is one of the most dangerous way of using heroin.

  • Heroin is a highly addictive and illegal drug.

  • Heroin users who inject the drug run the risk of additional risks.

  • Heroin users who inject the drug are at risk of infection to the heart lining and valves.

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