Heroin

Smack, H, Brown

Heroin users describes a feeling of as surge of pleasurable sensation or rush. In its purest form, heroin is a fine white powder. But more often, it is found to be grey, brown or black in colour. The colouring comes from additives which has been used to dilute it.

Signs and Symptoms

With the high potential for addiction, after a sufficient time of regular use, a person will become dependent on heroin. The brain doesn’t naturally produce dopamine as it once did, resulting in taking higher and more frequent doses to achieve the same effect. For someone with a heroin addiction, life usually revolves around their drug use.

The following signs and symptoms may be visible during and after consumptions:

  • Constricted pupils

  • Droopy appearance

  • Hyper alertness followed by suddenly nodding off

  • Disorientation

  • Shortness of breath

Behavioural signs:

  • Incoherent speech

  • Lying

  • Avoiding eye contact

  • Increased sleep

  • Worsening in work or school performance

  • Hygiene and physical appearance wears off

  • Loss of motivation

  • Isolation from friends and family

  • Stealing or borrowing money

  • Wearing long sleeves or long pants to hide needle marks

Typical paraphernalia used:

  • Needles or syringes

  • Silver spoons

  • Aluminium foil

  • Missing shoelaces (tying off injection sites)

  • Pipes

  • Straws or small plastic bags with powdery residue

Due to the tolerant built up for heroin, using higher doses and more frequently may display more telling signs:

  • Weight loss

  • Needle track marks

  • Infections around the injection site

  • Bruises or scabs from skin picking

Methods of Use

  • Injected

  • Smoked

  • Snorted

Adverse Effects

  • Depression

  • Agitation

  • Weight loss

  • Delusions

  • Paranoia

  • Apathy and lack of motivation

  • Potential lethal overdose

  • Chronic pneumonia

  • Collapsed veins

  • Blood clotting

  • Repertory depression

  • Seizures

Overdose Potential

Heroin has a high rate of overdose potential when enough of the drug is used to produce a life-threatening reaction. Breathing often slows or stops, decreasing the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain, called hypoxia. Hypoxia has short- and long-term mental effects and effects the nervous system, including coma and permanent brain damage.

Withdrawal

Symptoms depends on several factors including tolerance, length of addiction, metabolism, and severity of addiction. Withdrawal can be a painful and uncomfortable process and is often the reason why a person would rather return to their drug use. Symptoms usually start within a few hours then peak within 1-2 days and subsides between 5-7 days. Symptoms may include the following:

  • Intense cravings

  • Sweating

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Muscle aches and pains

  • Cramping

  • Insomnia

  • Fever

  • Diarrhoea