top view of syringe with pills

Heroin

What is Heroin?

•Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the various opium poppy  (Papaver Somniferum) plant.

Medicinal Use of Heroin

•Heroin is usually used as an illegal drug of abuse.

•In rare settings, heroin is prescribed by doctors for pain control.

•Heroin given intramuscularly is about two times as potent for pain relief.

Where Opium Poppy plant grown?

Opium poppy plants grown in following Country:

•Southeast and Southwest Asia,

•Mexico,

•and Colombia.

What does heroin look like?

•Heroin can be a white or brown powder, or a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin.

What are the common / other names for heroin?

Other common names for heroin include; 

Big H,

Horse, 

Hell dust, 

and Smack.

How do people use heroin?

•People inject, sniff, snort, or smoke heroin.

•Some people mix heroin with crack cocaine, this mixture called speedballing.

Heroin + Cocaine = SPEEDBALLS

(Also known as Snowballing or Powerballing)

What are the effects of heroin?

Heroin enters the brain rapidly and binds to opioid receptors on cells located in many areas, especially those involved in feelings of pain and pleasure and in controlling heart rate, sleeping, and breathing.

Long-Term Effects

People who use heroin over the long term may develop:

•Insomnia;

•Collapsed veins for people who inject the drug;

•Damaged tissue inside the nose for people who sniff or snort it;

•Infection of the heart lining and valves;

•Abscesses (swollen tissue filled with pus);

•Liver and kidney disease;

•Lung complications, including pneumonia;

•Mental disorders such as depression and antisocial personality disorder;

•Sexual dysfunction for men;

•Irregular menstrual cycles for women.

Short-Term Effects

People who use heroin report feeling a “rush” (a surge of pleasure, or euphoria). However, there are other common effects, including:

  • Dry mouth;
  • Warm flushing of the skin;
  • Heavy feeling in the arms and legs;
  • Nausea and Vomiting;
  • Severe itching;
  • Clouded mental functioning;
  • Going “on the nod,” a back-and-forth state of being conscious and semiconscious.

Can a person overdose on Heroin?

•A person can overdose on heroin. It’s a dangerous and lethal. A large dose of heroin depresses heart rate and breathing to such an extent that a person can not survive it without medical help.

Antidote for Heroin Overdose

•Naloxone is a medicine that can treat a heroin overdose when given right away, though more than one dose may be needed.

How Naloxone Works?

Naloxone is an opioid receptor antagonist medication. It works by rapidly binding to opioid receptors, preventing heroin from activating them.

Is Heroin Lethal?

Heroin is not inherently toxic to the organ systems of the body. Whereas a 200‐400mg dose of heroin could kill a novice, a chronic user may take 1800mg without ill‐effects.

Tests for Detection of Heroin

Following Sample Required for Heroin Detection

  • Urine sample,
  • Blood,
  • Hair
  • Saliva
  • Or sweat.

Examination

There are basically two categories of forensic tests used to analyze drugs and other unknown substances:

Presumptive tests – (such as color tests) give only an indication of which type of substance is present, but they can’t specifically identify the substance.

Confirmatory tests – (such as gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) or liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS)) are more specific and can determine the precise identity of the substance.

Color tests

Color tests expose an unknown drug to a chemical or mixture of chemicals. What color the test substance turns can help determine the type of drug that’s present. Here are a few examples of color tests:

Marquis Color
Formaldehyde and concentrated sulfuric acid
Heroin, morphine and most opium-based drugs will turn the solution purple. Amphetamines will turn it orange-brown
Sources:
  • “Drugs of Abuse,” U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration), (2012) accessed 8/8/2013.
  • Chemistry Explained, Forensic Chemistry web page, accessed 8/8/2013.
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