Heroin Addiction in the United States

Heroin addiction is a huge contributor to the opioid epidemic.

Heroin is an opiate drug derived from morphine, which comes from the seedpods extracted from the seedpods from the poppy flower. It ranges from a white powder, brown powder and black tar. It can be snorted, smoked or injected. Originally made from morphine in 1874, heroin was created by a chemist at The Bayer Company of Germany in 1895 and introduced for medical use in 1898. The chemist was attempting to create a less addictive substitute for morphine and gave the new drug the name heroin for its supposed heroic qualities, later discovering that heroin is two to three times more potent than morphine and absorbs rapidly into the brain. We’re now in what many described as the greatest health risk epidemic in modern history due to heroin addiction.

The opioid epidemic has been experiencing exponential growth since the mid to late 1990’s, with heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupling between 2002 and 2013 (Nierenberg, 2016). Many attribute the spike in heroin overdoses with the crackdown on prescription pain killers such as OxyContin and Vicodin. As street costs for these highly sought-after pain relievers continued to rise, people were lured towards heroin as a cheaper and easier to obtain substitute.

Woman suffering from heroin addiction.

As mentioned earlier, heroin comes in different forms and colors. The differences in appearance are contingent upon the origin of the drug, how refined and pure it is and if it was created using an industrial process. White-powder heroin is becoming rarer in the United States and often contains contaminants such as sugar, starches and powered milk. The “black tar” heroin is not purified and is considered lower grade. This is the most popular form of heroin found in the U.S. and looks like a black Tootsie Roll, which becomes sticky when heated up. This form is injected directly into the bloodstream. The danger of heroin is that it is very difficult to stop using, even if you’ve only tried it one or two times, it’s easy to develop an addiction.

Nierenberg, C. (2016, October 27) 10 Interesting Facts About Heroin. Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/56604-facts-about-heroin.html
Haupt, A. (2014, February 10) The Facts About Heroin. Retrieved from https://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2014/02/10/the-facts-about-heroin
National Institute on Drug Abuse (2019) Why does heroin use create special risk for contracting HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/why-are-heroin-users-special-risk-contracting-hivaids-hepatitis-b-c