Heroin comes from morphine, which is taken from the opium poppy. The poppy contains both codeine and morphine. Opium itself was initially used to treat insomnia, pain, and diarrhoea. It’s been around for hundreds of years. When it’s made into heroin however, it’s then called diamorphine which is stronger the nopium or morphine.
Heroin is utilised as a very powerful painkiller. Appearances vary but in its pure form, heroine is a white powder. It can also come in tablet form, or a liquid suitable for injecting. Street heroin can be either off-white or brown. It is often consumed by the rave community to help come down and chill out after a big night. It’s hard to know exactly what is in heroin, due to it often being mixed with a number of variants. Opiates – including heroin – are sedative drugs, which depress the nervous system, slowing down bodily function and helping to ease both physical and psychological pain.
The users feel relaxed, can easily detach from reality, and can feel a reduction in anxiety. The effects begin quickly after consumption, and can last for a few hours. It makes the user experience a sense of well-being and warmth, with higher doses making the user seemingly relaxed and sleepy. When first consumed, heroin can cause nausea, vomiting and dizziness. The drug is highly addictive, and users can quickly become addicted.
As with other drugs, the way in which heroin is taken itself can come with associated risks, such as Hepatitis and AIDS. There’s also a risk of a blood clot, or an abscess developing. Fatal over does are common. There are a few synthetic opiates which are used to mimic the effects of the drug – these are made for medical use and are often used in childbirth (pethidine). Others include dihydrocodeine, diconal, palfium, buprenorphine and methadone – a drug that is often prescribed as a substitute to for heroin and frequently used in withdrawal. Opoids that are manufactured for medical purposes come in a tablet, or injectable form, and are often used by heroin users, who for whatever reason cannot get hold of the drug. Frequent users often develop a tolerance.
Withdrawal from the drug is harsh, and produces symptoms that are likened to flu. For example: sweats, chills, involuntary muscle spasms and tremors. These symptoms eventually go away after about approximately a week to ten days. But the user may not regain their strength for quite a while. It’s quite common for users to succeed in giving up long term use of the drug, but coming off. Consequentially staying off can be hard.
Use of opiates during pregnancy often results in smaller babies, who have a tendency to result in withdrawal symptoms at birth –though this can be resolved through quality medical care. It’s often advised that the mother actually continues taking low doses, so to avoid these symptoms whilst pregnant. Controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act, it is illegal to both possess and supply heroin without a subscription. It is classified as class A. 7 years is the maximum prison sentence time for possession and/or a fine, whilst supplying can mean life time imprisonment and a fine.