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Heroin / Smack

Heroin also know by it full chemical name diacetylmorphine or diamorphine is a semi-synthetic opioid drug synthesized from morphine, a derivative of the opium poppy.

As with other opioids, heroin is used as both a pain-killer and a recreational drug and has an extremely high potential for abuse. Frequent and regular administration is associated with tolerance, moderate physical dependence, and severe psychological dependence which develops into addiction.

It is illegal to manufacture, possess, or sell heroin in the UK. Under the name diamorphine, it is a legally prescribed controlled drug in the United Kingdom. It is available for prescription to long-term users with counseling to deter addiction.

Heroin was first given the name by the German drug company Bayer in 1895. The name was derived from the German word "heroisch" (heroic), due to its perceived "heroic" effects upon a user.

The opium poppy was cultivated in lower Mesopotamia as long ago as 3400 BC. The chemical analysis of opium in the 19th century revealed that most of its activity could be ascribed to two alkaloids, codeine and morphine.

Heroin was first synthesized in 1874 by C. R. Alder Wright, an English chemist working at St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London. He had been experimenting with combining morphine with various acids.

In the U.S.A. the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act was passed in 1914 to control the sale and distribution of "heroin" and other opioids, which allowed the drug to be prescribed and sold for medical purposes. In 1924 the United States Congress banned its sale, importation or manufacture. It is now a Schedule I substance, which makes it illegal for non-medical use in signatory nations of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs treaty, including the United States.

Global users of heroin are estimated at between 15.16 million and 21.13 million people aged 15–64.

Under the name diamorphine, heroin is prescribed as a strong analgesic in the United Kingdom. Its use includes treatment for acute pain, such as in severe physical trauma, myocardial infarction, post-surgical pain, and chronic pain, including end-stage cancer and other terminal illnesses.

The medical use of diamorphine (in common with other strong opioids such as morphine, fentanyl and oxycodone) is controlled in the United Kingdom by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. In the UK, it is a class A controlled drug. Registers of its use are required to be kept in hospitals. Heroin is also used as a maintenance drug in the treatment of heroin addicts. Though this is somewhat controversial among proponents of a zero tolerance drug policy it has proven superior to methadone in improving the social and health situation of addicts.

Heroin is used as a recreational drug for the profound relaxation and intense euphoria it produces.

Anthropologist Michael Agar once described heroin as "the perfect whatever drug." The euphoric effect of heroin diminishes with increased tolerance. Users report an intense "rush" that occurs while the Heroin is being metabolized in the brain. One of the most common methods of illicit heroin use is via intravenous injection ("shooting up"). Heroin base (commonly found in the UK), when prepared for injection will only dissolve in water when mixed with an acid (most commonly citric acid powder or lemon juice) and heated. Users tend to initially inject in the easily accessible veins in the arm, but as these veins collapse over time through damage caused by the acid, the user will often resort to injecting in other veins.

Heroin recreationally can also be taken through means of snorting, or smoking by inhaling its vapors when heated; either with tobacco in a rolled cigarette or by heating the drug on aluminium foil from underneath. When heated the heroin powder changes to a thick liquid, similar in consistency to molten wax, and it will run across the foil giving off smoke which the user inhales through a tube, usually made from foil also so that any heroin that collects on the inside of the tube can be smoked afterward. The user follows the "blob" of heroin with the intention of inhaling, through the tube, as much of the smoke as possible - i.e. "chasing the dragon."

Orally, since heroin is completely metabolized to morphine before crossing the blood-brain barrier the effects are the same as with oral morphine. Snorting results in an onset within 3 to 5 minutes; smoking results in an almost immediate effect that builds in intensity; intravenous injection induces a rush and euphoria usually taking effect within 30 seconds; intramuscular and subcutaneous injection take effect within 3 to 5 minutes.

The diacetylmorphine dose used for recreational purposes depends strongly on the frequency of use. A first-time user typically ingests between 5 and 20 mg of diacetylmorphine, but an individual who is heavily dependent on the drug may require several hundred mg per day.

Large doses of heroin can cause fatal respiratory depression, and the drug has been used for suicide or as a murder weapon. The serial killer Dr Harold Shipman used it on his victims. Because significant tolerance to respiratory depression develops quickly with continued use and is lost just as quickly during withdrawal, it is often difficult to determine whether a heroin death was an accident, suicide or murder. Examples include the overdose deaths of Sid Vicious, Janis Joplin, and River Phoenix.

Data from The Lancet shows heroin to be the most addictive and most harmful of 20 drugs.

For intravenous users of heroin (and any other substance), the use of non-sterile needles and syringes and other related equipment leads to serious risks including
the risk of contracting blood-borne pathogens such as HIV and hepatitis and physical dependence can result from prolonged use of all opioids, resulting in withdrawal symptoms on cessation of use

  • Irvine Welsh's 1993 novel Trainspotting which was later made into a feature film under the same name explores the turbulent lives of an eccentric group of heroin users.

  • Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe released diaries from his time as a heroin addict named The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star.

  • Jim Morrison reportedly died of an overdose of heroin in a bathtub in Paris.

  • Neil Young wrote a song called "The Needle and the Damage Done" about heroin. The song reflected on the musicians he knew that took heroin and died from it.

  • Led Zeppelin guitar player Jimmy Page struggled with heroin from 1975 to the early 1980s.

  • David Bowie's first single "Space Oddity," was seemingly about his experience with heroin

  • Megadeth's song from Megadeth's Album Youthanasia - Addicted to Chaos, is influenced by Dave Mustaine's use of heroin previously.

  • Rozz Williams's final album before his suicide, The Whorse's Mouth, dealt with his heroin addiction.

  • Sid Vicious from the Sex Pistols died of a heroin overdose, and allegedly stabbed his girlfriend to death while both were strung out on heroin.

  • Hillel Slovak, founding member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, died of a 'speedball' overdose, which includes both cocaine and heroin.

  • Anthony Kiedis, also a founding member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, wrote about his heroin addiction in his autobiography, Scar Tissue.

  • Slash (guitarist for Guns N' Roses) documents his extensive heroin use in his self-titled autobiography.

  • Quentin Tarantino's 1994 film Pulp Fiction fully depicts the steps of heroin injection by Vincent Vega (John Travolta).

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