What is heroin?

  • Heroin (“smack”, “junk”, or “dope”) is made from the opium poppy.
  • Heroin belongs to a class of drugs known as opioids, along with opium, codeine, morphine, methadone, and oxycodone.
  • Heroin can come as a white or brownish powder (sometimes grainy) or as a dark brown substance (sometimes sticky) known as tar or black tar.
  • Heroin is usually cut with other substances, some of which may be even stronger than heroin. Purity is always inconsistent, even within one batch. Always do a small amount first to test the potency.

How is it used?

  • Long ago, heroin was prescribed or even sold over the counter.
  • Heroin is snorted, smoked (chased or mixed with pot), or injected.
  • Injection carries the highest risk.
  • Withdrawal symptoms include diarrhea, stomach cramps, sweating, itching, insomnia, vomiting and nausea. Despite making you feel like you’re dying, these symptoms do go away. The worst symptoms last about one week, while others (e.g., fatigue) may last a few months.

What are the effects?

  • The effects depend strongly on dose, purity, method of use, and tolerance. Tolerance is lost after about three days of not using.
  • Heroin users report feelings of warmth, well-being, euphoria, contentment, pain relief, a dreamlike state and dulled emotion.
  • Undesirable effects may include appetite loss, nausea and vomiting, constipation, itchiness, sweating, lack of orgasm in both men and women, slow, shallow breathing, lowered pulse and unconsciousness.

Be careful!

  • Heroin is extremely addictive, no matter how it is used.
  • Overdose is always a risk, even for experienced users. Always do a small amount first, to test the potency.
  • Most overdoses occur when heroin is used with other depressants (e.g., alcohol) or after a break of a few days.
  • For your safety, don’t use heroin alone or in a locked room.
  • Snorting brings the risk of hepatitis. Do not share straws or bills.
  • Injecting brings the risk of infection, abscess, vein damage, blood clots, all of which can lead to death. Learn how to inject safely.
  • Don’t share needles, cookers, cotton filters, water, or alcohol pads. Sharing can pass HIV and hepatitis. Used needles damage veins.
  • Use new syringes and new equipment. Prepare your shot on a clean surface. Clean your skin with soap and water or an alcohol pad.
  • Get injection supplies from a syringe exchange, a pharmacy, or your local health department.
  • If you can’’t get new needles, try smoking or snorting. Cleaning needles and works is not risk-free; it’’s a last resort. Rinse needles and works with cool, clean water three times, then soak in bleach for 30 seconds, and rinse again with cool clean water three times.
  • Heroin is a Schedule I illicit drug. Possession and sale can carry stiff penalties, e.g., prison.

What it someone overdoses?

  • If someone stops breathing, has no pulse, or turns blue, lay them on their side and call 911 immediately. Tell the 911 operator, “Someone has stopped breathing,” and begin CPR. Because there are antidotes to opioids, when the paramedics arrive, tell them what the person used.
  • In some states users can obtain Narcon (naloxone), the antidote to opiate overdoses. For more information check out here and here.
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