The problem of drugs of abuse (DOA) has been addressed by risk demographics and various national and international programs (some more efficient than others) developed to prevent the expansion and the emerging of new markets.
While it is common knowledge that DOA are not good for consumption (hence the many laws preventing their uncontrolled use), many surprising facts about them remain largely unknown or less known.
Knowing as much information as possible, makes it easier to tackle the issues surrounding DOA. Hence, we thought we should share a few less known facts in order to bust some myths and help shed some light.
Here are 10 less known facts about heroin:
Heroin or diacetylmorphine is a fast-acting opiate drug.
Among the side effects of heroin abuse is severe itching. Opiates can cause histamines to be released. Histamines are nitrogenous compounds involved in local immune responses and therefore produced by the body during allergic reactions. Histamines irritate the skin, as most people with allergies can confirm.
Heroin was first synthesized from morphine in 1874. It was later introduced for medical use in 1898, courtesy of The Bayer Company of Germany. In the early 1900s, heroin-based cough syrups and remedies for infant colic were sold over the counter in the United States and other countries. Unsurprisingly, doctors also reported heroin as an aid for better sleep.
Contrary to what many TV shows have taught us to believe, heroin can actually come in several colors. It is sold either as a white or brown powder, or as a sticky black substance known as "black tar heroin." Oftentimes it can also be rose gray. The color is usually an indication of the source region and of the agents used to cut the purity of the compound.
Babies can be, and unfortunately sometimes are, born addicted to opiates. A baby exposed to heroin in the womb can be born with physical addictions – to this drug or any other that was used by the mother during pregnancy. Generally known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), its symptoms (e.g. excessive crying, slow weight gain, fever, irritability, vomiting, etc.) usually take about 72 hours to appear in the newborn.
The most significant withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose. They can last several days, often up to a week, and even several months are not unheard of. Sudden withdrawal by heavily dependent users can be fatal.
More often than not, heroin is sold cut with other drugs or substances such as sugar, sugar substitutes, quinine, fentanyl, phenobarbital, cocaine, morphine, caffeine, procaine, acetaminophen (yes, paracetamol!), methaqualone and strychnine (a highly toxic and effective pesticide, widely used to combat pests such as small rodents).
Heroin habits do not come cheap. A heroin addiction can cost the user well above € 200 per day, not to mention the cost of losing personal relationships.
Nearly all heroin users use at least one other drug. Some combinations are less risky, however, the overwhelming majority of overdoses are caused by combining heroin with alcohol or other drugs.
A person cannot become physically dependent on or addicted to heroin after one single use. Around 80% of people using heroin do not become addicted.