Heroin is a synthetic opiate derivative widely used in drug abuse. It was introduced as a medicine more than 100 years ago, in 1898, and used as a powerful analgesic and an efficient remedy for coughing, asthma and tuberculosis. It was also researched as an analgesic opiate as a less addictive substitute for morphine; however, further research showed that it was a much more addictive product and in 1913 medical or pharmacological production of heroin ceased.
Heroin usually appears as a crystallized, odorless, very fine white powder although its aspect can vary depending on its purification process.
Heroin can be sniffed, smoked, inhaled or injected intramuscularly, subcutaneously or intravenously. Injection was the most common method of use until the discovery of AIDS and it can reach the brain in 15 -30 seconds. Currently the most used form of taking heroin is by smoking or inhaling; the substance is heated on aluminum foil and the vapors it gives off are inhaled through a straw or tube.
The short term effects of heroin include a surge of euphoria and mental confusion. Following this initial euphoria, the user goes into an alternately wakeful and drowsy state. Heroin slows breathing and therefore an overdose can cause death. Users who inject the drug are at a risk for infectious diseases such as AIDS/HIV and hepatitis.
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