"When you look back over a year on the junk, it seems like no time at all. Only the periods when you were sick stand out. You remember the first few shots and those when you were really sick. Junk takes everything and gives nothing except insurance against junk sickness"
William Burroughs, "Junky".
Heroin (Diacetylmorphine or Diamorphine) is one of the opiates, a group of pain killing drugs derived from the Opium poppy. The first recorded use of Opium as a painkiller was around six thousand years ago, by the Sumerians. Opium has found favour with practically every culture since then, both medically in anaesthesia and socially as an aid to relaxation. Opium comes from the juice of the poppy. It has many different components, of which the most important is Morphine. Weight for weight, as a painkiller Morphine is around ten times more powerful than Opium. Heroin was isolated from Morphine in 1874, and was originally used as a "safe" (i.e.. non-addictive) cure for Morphine addiction. Currently its main medical use is for pain relief with terminally ill patients - Heroin is more than twice as effective as Morphine as a painkiller.
Heroin can still be prescribed to patients who are dependent, although it is more usual to be prescribed Methadone injected into a vein, a muscle, or subcutaneously (under the skin). As with smoking, the effects are almost immediate.
What Happens ?
Whichever route of administration you use, the effects are very similar. The main difference between injecting and any other method is the rush felt with the onset of effects if Heroin is injected. If you are unused to the effects of the drug, you may feel nauseous - this is a common reaction. A few seconds after taking Heroin (or a few minutes if it is sniffed) a feeling of calm and warmth spreads through your body. Any troubles or pains seem very distant, and unimportant. At higher doses, you can slip into a dreamlike experience where you are not asleep or awake, but somewhere between the two states.
Physical Changes :
As well as being a very powerful painkiller, Heroin also depresses Central Nervous System activity and has physical effects similar to depressants. Heart rate and breathing slow down and the cough reflex is suppressed. The activity of the bowel is depressed, which can cause constipation. Some blood vessels dilate, releasing heat through the body - this gives a feeling of warmth, although the heat is actually being given out. Women who use Opiates can have irregular menstruation, although they are still able to conceive. Women who are heroin addicts give birth to children who are addicts too. At normal doses, someone who uses Heroin can talk and think coherently. At higher doses sedation occurs, and the user becomes drowsy, and may actually lose consciousness. Pupils become tiny (this is known as being pinned) and the user's eyes roll back.
Keeping Safe :
Overdosing on Heroin causes stupor, possibly coma and respiratory failure. The most common causes for overdose are using after a period of non-use (any tolerance that has developed disappears after regular use stops) and using Heroin which is of a higher quality than normal (the same amount of powder may contain more Heroin than you are expecting). Sniffing or smoking Heroin is less likely to lead to an overdose, as the amount of the drug that is being used is easier to control.
Sometimes the substances that Heroin is mixed with when it is sold can cause damage to your body if injected. Clean needles and syringes should always be used to keep the risk of infection to a minimum, and you should clean the injection site to ensure a clean fix. Needles and syringes should never be shared, as this can directly transport viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis from one person to another. If you do inject, you should use citric acid or vinegar to break down the powder (lemon juice will not be sterile).
Heroin is not instantly addictive, but if you use it regularly you can soon become dependent on the drug. This means that if you stop using, you will suffer physical withdrawal symptoms. These include muscle spasms, sweating, nausea and vomiting, lots of physical pain, an inability to concentrate or do anything, extreme feelings of anxiety and insomnia. The process of physical withdrawl takes approximately one week. Thereafter insomnia can last for up to one month. If you are suffering from heroin withdrawl, don't be scared to consult a doctor. Although nothing much can be done, tranquilisers will be prescribed for the period of withdrawl.
Using other depressant drugs at the same time as Heroin (for example alcohol or barbiturates) increases the depressant effects of each drug, and increases the risk of accidental overdose. If you are with someone who is overdosing on Opiates, call an ambulance. Try to keep the person conscious by talking to them. If they lose consciousness, put them in the recovery position (so that if they vomit their air passages stay clear) and check their breathing and pulse - if either fails, then administer artificial respiration or heart resuscitation. If possible, any sample of the drugs used should be given to the ambulance crew - even if the drugs are being used illegally, the police are not normally called.
Cocaine comes from the leaves of the Coca bush, or Erythroxylon coca which grows in Peru and Bolivia. For at least two thousand five hundred years, regional workers have chewed coca leaves for their stimulant properties. In the mid nineteenth century, a process was found by which the principal alkaloid of the bush, Cocaine Hydrochloride, could be extracted. This process was used to obtain Cocaine which was then used medicinally. Sigmund Freud (among others) noted the usefulness of Cocaine as an aphrodisiac, a local anaesthetic, a stimulant (and therefore useful in the treatment of depression), for treating digestive problems, tuberculosis and asthma. Like Opium, Cocaine was marketed in a number of patent medicines and other products which were widely available. It was found that Cocaine did alleviate the symptoms of illness, but was not the "magic bullet" or cure-all that it was at first believed to be. The possession and sale of Cocaine was first controlled by legislation in 1916.
Cocaine Hydrochloride can be freebased (ie. the Cocaine base can be released from the Hydrochloride salt) to make a purer form of the drug that is suitable for smoking. Crack is similar to freebase - it is a smokable form of Cocaine - but it is made using a different method. Once Cocaine Hydrochloride powder has been processed into Crack it is between eighty and one hundred percent pure.
How it is taken :
Cocaine Hydrochloride is broken down by the stomach, and so the drug is not swallowed. It is usual to sniff (or snort) the powder, or inject it. Crack is designed to be smoked.
What Happens ?
When used in powder form and sniffed, Cocaine starts off a "rush" of exhilaration and euphoria that peaks after about five minutes. You may feel alert, excited, energetic and talkative, although the intensity of these feelings gradually diminishes as the drug effects wear off. To keep on a Cocaine "high" you would have to take more of the drug every thirty minutes or so.
If you use Crack then the effects are similar to those experienced when sniffing Cocaine powder, but hugely exaggerated. The experiences happen over a much shorter time with a peak experience after a couple of minutes, and are often accompanied by an increased heart rate and excessive sweating. After fifteen or twenty minutes the effects of the drug wear off, and there is a compulsion to take more Crack. The "come down" from Crack can be very distressing, with an immediate low that matches the high given by the drug. The effects of using Crack have been likened to injecting Cocaine, but without using a needle.
Physical Changes :
Cocaine is a stimulant, and has physical side effects similar to other stimulant drugs. Reactions such as a dry mouth, loss of appetite, sweating and an increased pulse are common. If you use Cocaine regularly, you may experience a tight chest, exhaustion, buzzing in the ears, diarrhea and an inability to relax. If you continue to use Cocaine (including Crack) after having effects like these, you may become more and more confused, and start to experience delusions, hallucinations (visual and auditory) and formication (the feeling that insects are crawling under your
skin). This is similar to Amphetamine psychosis, and will pass if the use of Cocaine is discontinued, although it may take several months to feel fully recovered.
Keeping Safe :
Cocaine has a short acting effect - especially so for Crack - and the impulse to use more of the drug is intense. Moderate Cocaine use can easily become an out of control habit, as the times when you are not using can seem to be very depressing and upsetting. One of the physical effects of the drug is to use up stores of chemicals in the brain, and the only way to replace these is with rest and nourishment. If you use Cocaine regularly, the euphoria that makes the drug attractive can be replaced by restlessness, nausea and insomnia, and the only way to avoid these feelings is to stop using for a while. Although there are no physical withdrawal effects from heavy or regular Cocaine use, you may feel very low and anxious until your body has replenished its resources.
Injecting Cocaine brings health problems of its own. Even if using clean needles and syringes and safe injecting practices, the injection of Cocaine can cause abscesses, swelling and ulcers. Sharing needles can be a route for the transmission of HIV. Sniffing Cocaine regularly or over a long period of time can damage the membranes lining the nostrils. Smoking Cocaine can damage the lungs and lead to respiratory problems.
Disclaimer This Guide is provided for informational purposes ONLY. RaveSafe, it's volunteers and its sponsors do not condone or advocate the use of illegal substances. RaveSafe accepts NO responsibility for the way the information in this used, nor for any harm that might occur from the use of the information contained in this document. Although a concerted effort has been made to ensure the validity of the information contained in this document, no guarantees or assurances of accuracy are provided by anyone. Read and act at your own risk.