First produced in 1874 by British chemist C.R. Alder Wright (who was simply looking for a non-addictive numbing agent and cough medicine), heroin—or diamorphine—is an opioid synthesized from morphine. Morphine is a naturally occurring compound of the opium poppy plant. Heroin commonly appears as a white or brown powder. Black tar heroin is hard (like coal), sticky (like roofing tar), and dark brown to black in color. This form is less refined than other forms of heroin- in other words, black tar heroin is made by a crude process resulting in a cheaper product. This is then either smoked or melted for intravenous use. Regardless of form, heroin is classified as a Schedule I drug by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, meaning that, in the United States, heroin is considered to be a drug with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
Heroin addiction falls under the category of Opioid Use Disorder. Heroin has the potential to create severe psychological and/or physical dependence. The drug produces psychological effects which include a surge of euphoria followed by a twilight state of sleep and wakefulness as well as physiological effects, which includes:
For instance, opiates are incredibly addictive because they directly interact with the body’s opioid system, which controls pain, reward, and addictive behaviors, via three opioid receptors: mu, delta, and kappa. Opioids like heroin have the same molecule fragment as the endorphins that bind to mu-receptors. As such, these drugs compete with natural endorphins for mu-receptors, disrupting the production of endorphins in the short term, and disrupting the production of mu-opioid receptors in the long term. Endorphins normally activate mu-receptors to slow central nervous system (CNS) functions (i.e. breathing rate), impact mood, and produce a sedative and painkilling effect. In the short term, the use of hydrocodone produces a spike in dopamine levels. Over time, the body becomes increasingly tolerant and is decreasingly affected by the opiate, which leads to an escalation in the amount taken as well as other drug-seeking behavior.
The effects of heroin may last for 3-5 hours, but the substance can last (i.e. remains detectable) for longer inside the body, depending on factors including height and weight, the amount consumed, and the speed of your metabolism. Other factors, including whether anything has been eaten recently or the presence of any other drugs, can affect the duration as well.
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