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Heroin is one of the most widely abused illegal drugs in the world, and also one of the most destructive. (Hanson et al., 2004, p. 249) Most experts would put heroin use at the top of the pyramid as far as its danger and the severity of the addiction.

The U.S. got its first major taste of the drug during Vietnam, during which 40% of soldiers used heroin. The CIA also began trafficking in heroin around this time to fund its war efforts. As soldiers returned, this combination led to a heroin addiction epidemic. (Hanson et al., 2004) Sadly, we’ve seen a resurgence in heroin addiction in the U.S. in recent years as a result of the opioid crisis. People who get hooked on prescription painkillers often resort to heroin because it is cheaper and easier to obtain. A pill of pergocet can cost $50 on the streets, whereas a tab of heroin is jsut $5.

What is heroin?

Heroin is an opioid, derived from ?the resin? of the poppy plant. At one time Bayer actually sold heroin as an over-the counter medicine. (This has since been replaced by prescription opioids.) Heroin is becoming both cheaper (as little as $5 hit) and purer (60-70%) in recent years, adding to the number of people who get hooked.

What does heroin feel like?

The first time a user tries heroin can be unpleasant, since it might induce nausea and vomiting. But the high soon overwhelms these symptoms. The effects can vary depending on personality and a user’s psychological state, but at least 50% of those who try heroin have a positive reaction. (Hanson et al., 2004)

Those who have positive reactions say the feeling is indescribable, and that’s what makes this drug so addicting. Former addict Pax Prentiss describes his first experience with heroin as follows: “At that moment, I finally found what I had been searching for – the perfect high. The feeling ran through every pore and cell in my body. It was as though God himself had scooped me up in his arms and brought me to heaven. It was just too good to describe.

“The heroin allowed me to be anyone that I wanted to be. IT gave me a feeling of strength and confidence. And my troubles were washed away with the first hit. I felt as if I could do anything that I wanted to. All my fears were dissolved in the euphoria that the heroin provided. It was better than anything I had ever felt. …We all have dreams that mostly just remain dreams, but when you do heroin; your dreams become a reality. At least that’s what it seems like.” (Prentiss, 2008, pp. 55, 66)

A single shot of heroin typically lasts 4-6 hours. However, tolerance to the drug can build, so a person progressively needs more and more of it to achieve the same high. For a chronic user, a single shot may alleviate withdrawal symptoms but isn’t enough to deliver the high they’re looking for.

Mixing heroin with other drugs

Experienced addicts often mix heroin with other drugs, creating their own unique combinations that deliver a specific type of high. Just about anything can be dissolved into the mixture and shot up, which makes heroin a good base for customized drug abuse. They may also use heroin alongside alcohol, or use cocaine or other stimulants to help come down off it.


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