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Heroin is an incredibly addictive opioid drug generally taken for recreational purposes. While it does have some use in medicine as a cough suppressant and anti-diarrhea drug, most of the heroin in circulation is illegally produced and sold on the black market. Heroin addiction is a huge problem in society, with drug treatment centers helping people to withdraw and recover through detox and therapy programs. Heroin addiction is generally treated with pain relief medication and opiate replacement therapy, with users then directed toward relapse prevention programs and aftercare treatment to ensure long-term recovery.
Heroin is an opioid analgesic drug that is synthesized by adding two acetyl groups to the morphine molecule. Heroin addiction is associated with increased tolerance and a physical withdrawal syndrome, with addiction often developing quickly and requiring extensive treatment. Heroin addiction can be very dangerous if not treated properly, with overdose possible and severe withdrawal symptoms likely upon cessation of use. This drug is also known as diacetylmorphine, morphine diacetate and diamorphine, and is often called by its street names of H, smack, horse and others. While it is closely related to morphine, heroin is two to four times more potent and has a much faster onset of action.
This is a very addictive drug, with injected doses rapidly crossing the blood-brain barrier due to the presence of the acetyl groups. Once in the brain, heroin is deacetylated into inactive 3-monoacetylmorphine and active 6-monoacetylmorphine before turning into morphine, binding to opioid receptors and producing a range of euphoric, analgesic and anxiolytic effects. Heroin use alters brain neuroplasticity, with the brain and body slowly getting used to the drug as tolerance develops. Repeated use of the drug results in a number of physiological changes, with an increase in the production of opioid receptors leading to dependence over time. Along with the physical effects of addiction, heroin use also leads to psychological dependence.
This drug is synthesized from morphine, one of two active alkaloids in the opium poppy along with codeine. Originally synthesized in 1874 by English chemist C. R. Alder Wright, heroin was almost forgotten about for 23 years until it was re-synthesized by German chemist Felix Hoffmann. From 1898 through to 1910, heroin was sold as a non-addictive morphine substitute and cough suppressant, with the drug ironically taken as a cure for morphine addiction before people discovered that it rapidly metabolizes into morphine. The Harrison Narcotics Tax Act was passed in 1914 to control the sale and distribution of the drug and other opioids in the United States, with the Health Committee of the League of Nations banning heroin worldwide in 1925.
Heroin does have some legitimate uses in medicine, and is prescribed as an analgesic for the treatment of acute and chronic pain in the United Kingdom. Heroin is also prescribed as a maintenance drug to treat addiction in some European countries, where it is used instead of methadone and other more conventional drugs. Independent clinical trials in Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Canada and England have all found diacetylmorphine therapy to be effective for long-term addicts, with similar trials not conducted in the United States.
Heroin is taken recreationally for the intense feeling of transcendent euphoria is provides, with tolerance developing quickly with extended exposure to the drug. While it is normally administered by intravenous injection, it can also be smoked in a ritual known as “chasing the dragon”. Heroin addiction often comes as a result of extended recreational use, with users building up a tolerance to the drug and experiencing a withdrawal syndrome upon cessation of use. Treatment is often required at a dedicated drug rehab center, where detox and medication therapy is used alongside behavioral therapy and counseling programs.
If you or someone you love is addicted to this dangerous drug, call Bronx Drug Treatment Centers at 212-202-5656.