Heroin belongs to a powerful pain killer family, called opioids. It is extremely addictive. Heroin, commonly known as junk, H, smack, and horse, usually comes in a number of different forms and colours. Depending on its purity and how it was process, heroin can be a fine white powder or it can be a brownish tar like substance.
Heroin is most commonly used by injecting, snorting, or smoking the drug. Injection can lead to a greater sensation and a faster effect. However users also put themselves at increased risk of contracting an infectious disease such as HIV or Hepatitis C.
When Heroin is injected into a vein it can produce a rush. The feeling can start as quickly as a few seconds and can last up to a few minutes. After the rush is over a period of tranquility, commonly known as the nod can last up to an hour. When heroin is snorted, smoked or ingested the sensations are similar but may take longer to emerge.
New users commonly experience nausea and vomiting. Other symptoms include slowed breathing, pinpoint pupils, itchiness and sweating. Regular use can lead to constipation, loss of sexual interest, and irregular or cessation of a woman’s menstrual cycle.
The effects can last up to 6 to 12 hours at which time the person has to use again to avoid withdrawal symptoms. A person going through withdrawal can experience intense symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, runny nose and sneezing. These symptoms can peak within a few days and usually fade within 5 to 10 days. Other symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety and cravings can last longer.
Heroin is extremely addictive and dangerous. The risk of overdose is great due to the depressant properties of the drug and unknown purity.
CAMH: Do You Know… Heroin
National Institute of Drug Abuse