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A-Z of Drugs

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A-Z of drugs

 of Drugs

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Heroin

Also known as:

Boy, brown, dragon, gear, H, china white, smack, junk, skag and horse.

Heroin and the law

Heroin is a Class A drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

What is heroin?

Heroin is derived from the opium poppy and is a powerful and addictive substance which contains the chemical morphine and codeine, both effective pain killers.   It is administered by the NHS to those patients who clinically need it.

What does it look like?

Heroin in its purest form is a white powder made from morphine; however, on the street it may be sold as off-white to dark brown powder because it is usually mixed with other substances such as paracetamol, caffeine, talcum powder, chalk and flour.   It can also be found in the form of a pill or liquid.

How is it used?

Heroin can be smoked, snorted or dissolved and injected.

What are the effects?

The effects of heroin depend on how much is taken and the way it is taken.   Users generally feel a rush followed by a feeling of warmth and well-being, a total relief from stress and anxiety.   Initial use can result in vomiting and nausea but these reactions fade with regular use.   It slows down the users breathing and heart rate, causes constipation and as it depresses the central nervous system it slows down the body's functioning and helps to combat physical and emotional pain.   Other common symptoms include drowsiness, muscle cramps and sweating.

When do the effects start and how long do they last?

Through injecting heroin the effects are felt almost instantly (within 7-8 seconds).   If it is smoked it takes longer at about 10 - 15 minutes.  

What are the risks?

With regular use tolerance develops so that more is needed to get the same effect which can lead to physical dependence.   Addicts become malnourished as they never feel hungry.   It decreases the body's resistance to infection, can cause pneumonia and irregular periods for women.

It can also cause thrombosis, blocked veins, abscesses and skin infections.   Repeated or poor injecting into the same vein will cause the vein to collapse and as with all drugs administered through injections users run the risk of infection from HIV, hepatitis and other diseases.   

Because of the impurity of the drug it is difficult to gauge the strength of the dosage and some overdose fatalities occur when the user has not had any for a while and then injected the usual dosage.

Is it addictive?

Yes.   Heroin is a very addictive drug both physically and psychologically.   Users also experience severe and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if they stop ('cold turkey')

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Stoke-on-Trent Drug and Alcohol Action Team, First Floor, Civic Centre, Glebe St, Stoke on Trent, ST4 1WR
Tel: 01782 235708 . Fax: 01782 235003 . E-mail: drugactionteam@stoke.gov.uk