Heroin is an opioid derived from the opium poppy plant, which has been used for thousands of years. The discovery of morphine, codeine, and heroin from the opium plant has helped millions of people dealing with debilitating pain. However, these drugs have been abused for nearly as long as they’ve been around.  Heroin is one of the most popular drugs in the world and it’s abused by many.  Heroin and morphine became more popular after the Vietnam War and these two drugs have been the main focus of the anti-drug movement since the end of World War II.
Syringe, spoon and heroin, concept of addiction
          Heroin can be consumed in a number of different ways. It can be smoked, snorted, and injected into the blood stream (photo above).  The National Institute on Drug Abuse mentions on their website that the three main routes of administration of the drug contributes to many of heroin’s health risks. Chronic heroin users will suffer from infections of the heart lining, heart valves, kidney and liver disease.  Heroin causes changes in the brain which lead to physical and psychological dependence on the drug. If a heroin-addicted individual quits the drug “cold turkey”, they may be at risk for seizures, stroke, and even death.
          Withdrawal from heroin is very dangerous and should never be done while at home. Withdrawal symptoms include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, and insomnia. Symptoms may begin as early as a few hours after taking it.  Chronic users will become chemically addicted to heroin and they will need to take more and more to achieve the same effect. This leads to many overdoses and trips to the emergency room.
            The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported more than 4.2 million Americans ages 12 or older has used heroin at least once during their lifetimes and it’s estimated over 20% of heroin users become addicted to the drug.  A recent Time magazine article by Nate Rawlings cited a study that shows the increase of heroin use with 373,000 users in 2007 up to 669,000 users in 2012.  The number might be greater because of the inability of researchers to survey heroin users who might be homeless or incarcerated. 
          Heroin’s appeal and ease of use can and still does draw many people to use it to get high.  Heroin not only wreaks havoc on the person’s body, it also wreaks havoc on society. People who inject heroin with needles are at risk for infections like Hepatitis C and HIV. If you or a loved one is abusing heroin, please call us at Inspirations for Youth and Families at (888) 757-6237.