- When Dorothy collapses in the field of poppies in the Wizard of Oz, she has fallen under the influence of an opium. Treatment with a few chemicals can isolate morphine, the active ingredient in opium. Morphine can further be refined into diacetylmorphine, which is commonly known as heroin.
- The word “heroine” is derived from the German word heroisch, or “heroic.”
- Heroin is also known as “tar,” “train,” “junk,” “smack,” “H,” “boy,” “white horse,” “brown,” “black,” and “chiva,” among others.
- Two of the most common long-term effects of heroin addiction are liver failure and heart disease.
- According to the Department of Justice, the top destination in the United States for heroin shipments is the Chicago metro area.
The top destination in the U.S. for heroin shipments is the Chicago metro area
- A 1998–2008 study found that heroin-related deaths in the Chicago area went up 40% among white women.
- According to a 2013 study, Afghanistan is the leading producer and cultivator of opium worldwide and manufactures 74% of illicit opiates. However, Mexico is the leading supplier to the U.S.
- Quentin Tarantino’s violent movie Pulp Fiction was accused of glamorizing and misrepresenting heroin use. The movie shows an overdose victim being revived by a dose of adrenaline injected directly into the heart. However, this is almost never done to treat a heroine overdose. And if it were done, CPR and defibrillation would also be necessary.
- Heroin has claimed the lives of many beloved artists, including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Cory Monteith, Janis Joplin, River Phoenix, and Chris Farley. Other celebrities have struggled with heroin, including Russell Brand, Robert Downy Jr., Corey Feldman, Courtney Love, Tatum O’Neal, and Keith Richards.
- Approximately 13.5 million people worldwide take opium-like substances (opioids), including 9.2 million who use heroin.
- C. R. Alder Wright discovered how to process heroin from morphine in 1874. It was initially believed to be nonaddictive and was used to help morphine addicts break their addiction.
- Heroin can be injected, snorted/sniffed, or smoked. All three methods can lead to addiction and other severe health problems.
- A person can become more tolerant to heroin so, after a short time, more and more heroin is needed to produce the same level of intensity.
- Heroin withdrawal occurs within just a few hours since the last use. Symptoms include diarrhea, insomnia, vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps, and bone and muscle pain. Withdrawal is often severe.
- The ancient Sumerians referred to the poppy (from which heroin is derived) as hul gil, or the “joy plant.” Ancient Egyptian, Greek, Minoan, and Sanskrit texts also refer to the use of poppy-derived medicines.
The Latin botanical name for the opium poppy is Papaver somniferum and means "sleep-bringing poppy”
- The poppy plant, from which heroin is derived, grows in mild climates around the world, including Afghanistan, Mexico, Columbia, Turkey, Pakistan, India Burma, Thailand, Australia, and China.
- Heroin is made by collecting sap from the flower of opium poppies. The sap is then bought by a merchant or broker who takes the opium to a morphine refinery, were it is refined into a morphine base. This base is then reacted with acetic anhydride, a chemical that is also used in the production of aspirin.
- In its purest form (diamorphine), heroin powder is white. However, the most commonly used type of heroin is brown. Heroin can also be yellow or even gray. “Mexican Mud’ or “Black Tar” from Mexico is becoming increasingly popular and profitable as tensions continue to rise in the Middle East. Previously, most heroin was imported from Afghanistan.
- After time, a heroin user’s sense of smell and taste become numb and may disappear. Sexual function and the ability to orgasm are also diminished. When the addiction is over, the numbness fades, which causes an overwhelming flood of stimulation.
- Heroin doesn’t dissolve easily, so users need to dissolve it, usually in a spoon with water before they inject. Users will often use heat to help the heroin dissolve.
- Heroin cravings can linger for years after a person stops using. It can be triggered by exposure to stress or things associated with previous drug use.
- Heroin can be injected intravenously or intramuscularly. Some users inject heroin into the tissue just under the skin, which is called “skin popping.” Injecting heroin into a vein results in an almost immediate effect as the drug enters the bloodstream and then rapidly arrives at the brain. Injecting heroin into a muscle produces a slower reaction.
- Heroin can be smoked using a method called “chasing the dragon.” A user will heat the powder on some foil and then inhale the fumes through a small tube. The effects are felt quickly, usually within 2–5 minutes after smoking.
- Users who snort heroin can sniff the powder up their nose, like cocaine users do. Some users will add water to an empty eye drop (e.g., Visine) bottle, then drop a $20 hit or two into the bottle. They shake up the bottle to dissolve the drug and then squirt the liquid up their nose.
- Some heroin users describe the drug as “blissful apathy” because it reduces emotional reactions to pain.
A heroin addiction can cost over $250 a day
- A heroin addiction is expensive to maintain. At the height of someone’s addiction, they may spend around $250 a day.
- Approximately 3% of high school seniors say they have tried heroin at least once in the past year. Many of them will try the drug for the first time on school grounds.
- Heroin creates both a physical and psychological dependence. If an addict does not address the psychological effects of the drugs as well as the physical, there is a 90% chance they will relapse.
- It takes about 14 years of using heroin before someone will admit they are an addict and seek treatment. However, just 20% of people seek out some form of help.
- Most people who take heroin will become addicted within 12 weeks of consistent use. After 12 weeks, withdrawal symptoms can begin in as little as 2 hours after taking a hit. It generally takes about 72 hours for withdrawal symptoms from heroin to reach their peak.
- Most people try heroin for the first time in their late teens or early 20s. Anyone can become addicted—all races, genders, and ethnicities.
- In 2014, the street price of a standard bag of heroin in Chicago was $10 for 7%–10% purity. Ten years ago, it was $50–$150 for 2%–3% purity. Purer versions allow a user to smoke or snort the drug which, because it’s easier, widens the audience. The more heroin is cut with filler, the more likely it has to be injected directly into the body to achieve a high.
- Heroin use has been increasing since 2007. Heroin overdose deaths have also spiked, increasing 45% from 2006 to 2010, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
- Heroin is a “downer,” which means it’s a depressant that slows messages traveling between the brain and body. When it enters the body, users feel a rush of euphoria.
- The most significant indicator that someone will use heroin is if someone abused prescription painkillers, such as Vicodin and oxycodone (Oxycontin, etc.).
- Signs that someone is using heroin include shortness of breath, dry mouth, a droopy appearance, cycles of ultra-alertness followed by sudden drowsiness. Additionally, their pupils will appear small.
Heroin was initially marketed as a cough medicine for children
- In 1898, Bayer marketed heroin as a nonaddictive cough medicine. It is now considered to have no medical benefit with a high potential for abuse.
- According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2007 there were a reported 373,000 heroin users in the U.S. That number doubled to 660,000 users in 2012.
- According to the National Institute of Health, in 2007, the United States consumed about 80% of the world’s opiate supplies. The U.S. consists of only 4.6% of the world’s population.
- According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, from 2006 to 2010, deaths from drug poisoning involving heroin increased by 45%.
- In 1999, 4,414 teens sought treatment for heroin abuse. In 2009, over 21,000 teens sought treatment.
- A 2009 study found that 90% of heroin addicts were white.
- More than most other drugs, heroin increases the risk of serious health problems not directly associated with the drug itself. Users who inject heroin are more likely than other types of drug users to contract HIV/AIDS or hepatitis.
1“11 Facts about Heroin.” Do Something. 2014. Accessed: January 23, 2015.
2Brezina, Corona. Heroin: The Deadly Addiction. New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc, 2009.
3Fernandez, Humberto and Therissa A. Libby, PhD. Heroin: Its History, Pharmacology, & Treatment. 2nd edition. Center City, MN: Hazelden, 2011.
4Gray, Eliza. “Heroin Gains Popularity as Cheap Doses Flood the U.S.” Time. February 4, 2014. Accessed: January 23, 2015.
5“The Shocking Stats on Heroin Use.” Oprah. March 12, 2014. Accessed: January 23, 2015.