Heroin is a powerful semi-synthetic opiate derived from morphine and is most often used as a recreational drug. It delivers an intense “rush” and is more powerful than most opioid analgesics because it crosses the blood-brain barrier more rapidly. Use of heroin leads quickly to dependence and has a high potential for addiction. Heroin is known to cause “blissful apathy” along with its painkilling effects.
Withdrawal symptoms can develop as soon as three days if regularly used and stop abruptly – much quicker than the onset of withdrawal from some other opiates including oxycodone and hydrocodone.
The History of Heroin
Heroin was first synthesized from morphine in 1874. Until 1910, it was marketed as a non-addictive cough suppressant and substitute for morphine. The Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, passed in 1914, was meant to control the sale of heroin and other opiates. Heroin was allowed to be prescribed for medical purposes until 1924, when Congress banned the sale, import, or manufacturing in the U.S. Most of the consumption in the U.S. comes from Colombia, Mexico, Canada, Afghanistan, and China. Other top-producing countries include Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos.
Heroin is considered a Schedule I Controlled Substance in the U.S. This government classification says heroin has no legal medical use and has the highest potential among opiates for abuse and addiction. Synthesized from morphine, heroin can be smoked, injected, or snorted.
The highly potent and addictive opiate has no accepted medical use but provides for a thriving and profitable black market business around the world. Heroin addiction is dangerous and can be deadly and the risk of heroin overdose is very high. Further, the impact of heroin addiction on individuals, families, relationships, the criminal justice system, and society is devastating.
Heroin withdrawal refers to the wide range of physical and mental symptoms that occurs after stopping or dramatically reducing the drug use. After continuous use people usually develop a physical dependence and are susceptible to a painful withdrawal syndrome (due to chemistry changes that have occurred.)
The brain’s cells make subtle adjustments to help the user stay alive and conscious while taking heroin. These changes happened slowly, over a period of abuse, and similarly the brain’s cells also need a particular time to reverse that damage. They can’t just change from needing heroin to not needing heroin. The cells need adequate time to make the proper reversal adjustments, and during this regulation period, those cells might not function as they should.
Heroin withdrawal symptoms usually begin in around 5 hours after the last dose. It tends to peak between the second and third day and gradually subside between the fifth and seventh. The process can be exhausting and grueling, and even the most well-intentioned users can find themselves returning to their supply when the suffering of withdrawal becomes too much to bear.