A recent article by CNN Health termed heroin as the most addictive drug, saying it scores highly on the factors that experts believe make a drug dangerously addictive.

These factors include the damage a drug causes, its street value, its ability to activate dopamine, how pleasurable users say it is, the severity of withdrawal symptoms, and how easily a person experimenting with it becomes addicted.

On a scale of 1 to 3, heroin scores 3, making it the most addictive drug. Also, it only takes 5 times as much dosage that it takes to get someone high to cause death.

With about a dozen street names –such as Big H, Chiva, Hell Dust, Horse, Negra, Smack, and Thunder –this drug is consumed by more than 900,000 Americans in one form or another.  So, where does it come from and what are the common types of heroin? This article answers those questions in detail.

Where Does Heroin Come From?

Heroin is an illegal drug made from the opium of poppy plants. Opium contains different opioid substances such as morphine and codeine. To make it, morphine is extracted from opium then treated with other acids.

Most of the heroin in the world comes from poppy-growing countries in Southeast and Southwest Asia and Colombia.

Reports from the National Library of Medicine indicate that most of the poppy plants grown in Afghanistan wind up as heroin in Europe, from Southeast Asia, it mostly ends up in Australia and Western Canada, and Colombian and Mexican heroin feeds the US market.

Origin of Heroin

The results of clinical trials involving heroin at the turn of the 19th century were so promising that it was called a wonder drug. This is because it was very effective in treating respiratory diseases than codeine.

Doctors also used it to relieve pain, to help make surgery patients unconscious, and to treat morphine addiction.

The widespread use in the US began in 1898 when the German Bayer pharmaceutical company began producing the morphine derivative on a commercial scale and used the term ‘heroin’ as its brand name.

Bayer also marketed it as a non-addictive pain reliever leading to widespread acceptance by the public and doctors and the use of the brand name ‘heroin’ for the drug.

However, heroin’s misuse soon set in (probably because people on the drug reported feeling heroic and wanted to keep feeling that way) This lead to addictions that alerted the authorities to its highly addictive nature and consequently its ban in 1924.

When Is It Legal?

Heroin is illegal in the US but some countries, such as Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, the UK, and the Netherlands prescribe it to manage opioids or to help people get off heroin addiction.

Street heroin comes in different forms depending on the chemicals it’s been cut with. Here’s a breakdown of each:

  1. White Powder

This is the purest form has a pure white color and looks like salt. It is also called diacetylmorphine hydrochloride and is cut with other white powders to reduce the effects of the drug. However, cutting it also introduces contaminants that increase the risk of infections and vein damage.

Since the white powder quickly dissolves in water, most people inject it into the body but it can also be snorted. However, it has a very high burning temperature and therefore can’t be smoked like black tar heroin.

  1. Black Tar

Black tar has a gummy consistency with a pungent vinegar smell and is often brown or blackish in color and sometimes a deep red. It is consumed by crashing it, diluting, smoking, or injecting it into the bloodstream.

Its production is cruder than pure heroin because the refining process stops when morphine is mixed with chemicals.

According to the National Library of Medicine, injecting black tar heroin is a primary cause for wound botulism –a condition that occurs when a bacteria called Clostridium botulinum enters a wound producing a toxin that attacks your body’s nerves. When this happens, you may have difficulty breathing, muscle weakness, or even die.

  1. Brown Powder

Brown powder, like the name suggests, is brown in color (often a dirty brown). It is less crude than black tar, but not as pure or costly as white powder. Sometimes, brown powder is made by crushing black tar heroin with other chemicals.

It may be odorless, smell like chocolate or cat urine depending on what it was cut with. This variant is consumed by snorting or smoking.

Each type has relatively different components, and all of them are likely to contain a variety of additional chemicals that can increase the drug’s potency, and therefore its toxicity.

Some of the cutting agents include paracetamol which is a painkiller, fentanyl, a narcotic that is a hundred times worse than morphine, Tylenol PM, a nighttime pain reliever, or phenolphthalein which is an acid-base indicator.

How People Get Addicted 

Heroin addiction is based on a reward system. When you consume heroin in any form, it influences the production of feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and endorphins making you feel a natural sense of wellbeing.

When you consume it repeatedly, you get used to the euphoria associated with getting high. Soon, you move from wanting it to needing it and experience withdrawal symptoms when you don’t take it.

Your body also becomes resistant to the drug, forcing you to require higher doses over time to make up for the pleasure you felt at the beginning and to deal with withdrawal symptoms.

Because addiction develops and gets worse in stages, the more you wait to get help for addiction, the worse the addiction becomes.

Where to Get Help for Heroin Addiction

Even if you or your loved one may be struggling with heroin addiction, you can get adequate treatment and get back to living a normal life.

While it’s not easy, holistic help can help you cope with the withdrawal and cravings while teaching you how to avoid relapse.

Covenant Hills Treatment Center is a Christian rehab facility in Orange County. We take a holistic approach to treat heroin addiction and you get to choose between staying at our facilities or getting treated at home. Contact us today to find freedom from addiction.

Sources:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9516001/
  2. https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/heroin
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2704563/