Heroin comes in various forms, but pure heroin is a white powder with a bitter taste. Most illicit heroin comes in powder form in colors ranging from white to dark brown. The colors are due to the impurities left from the manufacturing process or the presence of additives. “Black tar” is another form of heroin that resembles roofing tar or is hard like coal. Most of the heroin found on the West Coast is in “black tar” form. Color varies from dark brown to black. It is important to remember, that regardless of the form, heroin addiction is a dangerous possibility of using this drug.
Heroin can be injected, smoked, or snorted. Over time, most people end up with a heroin addiction, injecting it for the euphoric feeling associated with this method of use. Effects are felt in 15 to 30 seconds. Even though effects for snorting develop more slowly, beginning in 2 to 5 minutes, sniffing or smoking heroin has increased in popularity because of the availability of high-purity heroin and the fear of sharing needles. In addition, some users mistakenly believe that sniffing or smoking heroin will not lead to heroin addiction and allow them to control their use. The qualities associated with heroin addiction are much more powerful than a person’s willpower and people snorting or smoking heroin will surely become as addicted to the drug as those persons injecting the drug.
After ingestion, heroin crosses the blood-brain barrier. While in the brain, heroin converts to morphine and binds rapidly to opioid receptors.
Heroin use causes:
- A rush or surge of pleasurable sensations
- A warm flushing of the skin
- Dry mouth
- Heavy feeling in arms and legs
- Severe itching
- Drowsiness following initial effects
- Slowed mental function
- Decreased cardiac and respiratory rate
- Collapsed veins
- Bacterial infections
- Abscesses and other soft tissue infections
- Live or Kidney disease
- Lung complications including pneumonia and
- Pregnancy complications including miscarriage or premature delivery
- Repeated heroin use produces tolerance and a physical dependence – a heroin addiction.