Heroin’s scientific name is diamorphine, because the compound is derived
from morphine, a natural product of the opium poppy. Heroin is also known
as dope, smack, Mexican Brown or China White. It is illegal to make,
possess or sell without a license nearly everywhere in the world. It is also
illegal to use without strict physician supervision. Though heroin does have
some (limited) medicinal value, the drug is generally used recreationally
because of its euphoric high.
Heroin can be injected, snorted, sniffed or smoked. Taken intravenously, its
high is immediate and often induces a state of semi-consciousness (the
nod). Other methods don’t provide an effect for some minutes and rarely
induce nodding. Whatever the ingestion method, heroin’s consequent high
lasts from two-five hours.
Heroin is highly addictive. In fact, heroin addiction can begin within a matter
of days of continual use. The user quickly develops a tolerance, requiring
more and more of the drug to achieve the same high and the higher doses
quickly lead to addiction. Higher doses of course also significantly raise the
risk of overdose.
Long-term heroin use affects the brain’s decision-making process. It also
causes erratic behavior and hampers the user’s ability to handle stressful
situations. This is why addicts often continue heroin use despite negative
Heroin withdrawal can begin within hours of the last use. And it can induce
restlessness, severe muscle and bone pain, sleep problems, cold flashes,
diarrhea and vomiting. Withdrawal also causes intense heroin cravings.
The extreme discomfort is another reason why heroin addicts will often
irrationally seek yet another dose of the drug, regardless of the harm it has