Heroin (Drugs: The Straight Facts)

Heroin (Drugs: The Straight Facts)

Carmen Ferreiro

Language: English

Pages: 105


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Heroin is a highly addictive drug, and its abuse has repercussions that extend far beyond the individual users. The health and social consequences of drug abuse—HIV/AIDS, violence, tuberculosis, fetal effects, crime, and disruptions in family, workplace, and educational environments—have a devastating impact on society and cost billions of dollars each year.

This is how Alan I. Leshner, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) describes heroin. Yet heroin—that is, pure heroin—is just a semi-synthetic alkaloid (organic substance from plants), a diacetyl derivative of morphine, a white powder as harmless looking as powdered sugar. Street heroin, however, is an entirely different matter, and it is this form of heroin that Leshner is speaking about.

Because heroin is illegal in the United States, it has become a black market commodity (product available illegally only) and, as such, its color, purity, and even its name have changed. On the street, heroin is called smack, horse, H, dope, skag, or junk. As in other commercial markets, the dealers give their product brand names like “Tango & Cash,” “DOA” (dead on arrival), “Body Bag” (no explanation needed), and the more subtle “Red Rum”—murder spelled backward. A “fix” (enough heroin for a single high) is usually bought in a glassine (thin transparent paper that resists air and grease) envelope with the brand name stamped on it.

Street heroin is far from pure. Every time it is traded down the distribution chain, it is “cut,” which means that it is mixed with other products to increase its weight and the profit of its sale. Some of these products are innocuous—for example, sugar, starch, powered milk, quinine, brick dust, and starch. Others are intrinsically harmful—for example, the harmful poison strychnine and the potentially dangerous talcum powder, which, when injected in a vein, does not dissolve in the bloodstream but forms little particles that can cause vein blockage. Sometimes heroin is laced with other drugs. Sometimes it is sold pure, without additives. This is even more dangerous since its potency may cause the unaware user to overdose and die. Ironically, among heroin buyers, the fact that a particular brand has caused death by overdose makes it more attractive, not less so. Overdose means, after all, a better product.

The color and consistency of the heroin available in the street varies, too. It ranges from a white or brownish powder to the black sticky substance sold mainly on the West Coast and known as Mexican black tar. Mexico is one of the three traditional regions where heroin is produced. The other two are the “golden triangle” in Southeast Asia (Laos, Thailand, Burma) and the “golden crescent” of the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran area. Recently, Central and South America have also joined the market.

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exchange programs were first implemented has the lowest number of HIV-positive drug users in England and the highest rate of drug users receiving treatment. In one of England’s largest cities, Liverpool, the HIV-infection rate for injecting drug users is 0.1 percent compared with 60 percent in New York City. Within the United States, the rate of HIV infection among HIV AND HEROIN HIV has been reported among injecting drug users (IDUs) in 60 countries on all continents except Antarctica. HIV

taken. In a clear example of set and setting, during the Vietnam War many American soldiers got addicted to narcotic drugs. After returning home in 1975, most of them gave up using them altogether. When they started using drugs, they had been scared, fighting in a foreign country, with plenty of time and money to spend, and narcotic drugs were cheap and available. As soon as they were back with their families in their own environment, 64 HEROIN the need for drugs was no longer there, and

recovery is for the person to admit having a problem with drugs or alcohol and admit the need for external help. The sources of help are a higher spiritual power and the other group members. From them, the addict gathers the spiritual strength necessary to stop drug use. Other changes in the addict’s life include attendance at group meetings and concentration on the goal of abstinence summarized in AA’s motto, “one day at a time.” Usually, a new member is paired with a sponsor, someone who has

for — in other words, disease. To date, three types of neuroactive peptides have been identified: enkephalins, endorphins, and dynorphins. Although they vary in size, they all share a tetra peptide sequence Tyr-Gly-Gly-Phe. This sequence is essential to their History, Properties, and Effects of Heroin 21 This representation of a synapse between two neurons in the brain shows the action of opiates at opiate receptors. Enzymes in the brain convert heroin to morphine. When morphine binds

him to the drug. Obsessed with each other and their next high, the couple retreated farther and farther from the world. After weeks of sitting in a room at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City, shooting up day and night, Spungeon died from a wound that Vicious accidentally inflicted on her. Several months later, at age 21, Sid Vicious overdosed. Long-Term Effects of Heroin 29 flu that last a day or two. For a heavier user, the symptoms will last longer. Typical withdrawal symptoms include

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