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What Is Heroin?

Heroin is an illegal drug that is taken to produce a "high." Over time, the heroin addict builds up a tolerance for heroin, and more of the drug must be taken to get the same sense of euphoria. The purest form of heroin is a bitter-tasting white powder, and it is an effective painkilling medication.

Heroin was first introduced to the public in the latter part of the nineteenth century. At that point, it was sold as a cough suppressant and a pain reliever. By the time the twentieth century started, laws had been introduced in Europe and North America to make heroin a restricted substance. Doctors in Britain can prescribe this drug legally. (When taken, the brain converts heroin to morphine.)

This drug is derived from morphine, which is made from the opium poppy. Heroin works by slowing down the body's central nervous system. This includes the user's physical, mental and emotional responses, and can lead to the following responses and side effects:

  • Euphoria

  • Drowsiness

  • Constricted pupils

  • Apathy

  • Convulsions

  • Difficulty breathing

Heroin users are at an increased risk of contracting hepatitis and HIV/AIDS from using dirty needles and/or needle sharing.

Heroin can vary in color from white to dark brown. One form of heroin, known as "black tar heroin," is dark brown or black in color. Black tar heroin may appear sticky or hard, like coal. The drug is imported into the United States from Mexico, South America, and Southeast or Southwest Asia.

There are several ways that heroin can be taken. The user will experience a high most quickly if the heroin is taken injected intravenously; seven or eight seconds is all it takes. Smoking heroin gives the user a high in under five minutes. The drug can also be snorted, and with this method, the high will start in 10 or 15 minutes.

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