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Fact Sheet - Heroin

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 Full Text [Fact #382]
  • Heroin causes more drug-related deaths than any other illicit drug.
  • Heroin is processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seedpod of the Asian poppy plant.
  • Street names for heroin include "smack," "H," "skag," and "junk." Other names may refer to types of heroin produced in a specific geographical area, such as "Mexican black tar."
  • With regular heroin use, tolerance develops. This means the abuser must use more heroin to achieve the same intensity of effect. As higher doses are used over time, physical dependence and addiction develop. With physical dependence, the body adapts to the presence of the drug and withdrawal symptoms may occur if use is reduced or stopped.
  • In the western United States, most of the heroin available is a solid substance that is black in color. This type of heroin, known as black tar, may be sticky (like tar) or hard to the touch. Powdered heroin that is a dirty brown color is also sold in the western United States.
  • According to the Monitoring the Future Survey, nearly 2% of high school seniors in the United States reported using heroin at least once during their lives, and nearly 50% of those students injected the drug. [2003 data]
  • Heroin overdose is a constant threat because it is impossible to know the purity of heroin bought on the street. Heroin is often mixed with other substances such as sugar, starch, and quinine; and is sometimes mixed with poisons such as strychnine.
  • Heroin ceases to produce feelings of pleasure in users who develop tolerance; instead, these users must continue taking the drug simply to feel normal and to avoid acute heroin withdrawal.
  • Heroin users who inject the drug expose themselves to additional risks beyond the risks of heroin side effects and overdose. These additional risks include contracting HIV, hepatitis B and C, and other blood-borne viruses. Chronic users who inject heroin also risk scarred or collapsed veins (called loss of peripheral venous access), infection of the heart lining and valves (called endocarditis), abscesses, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and liver and kidney disease.
 Full Text [Fact #720]
  • According to the Michigan 2001 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, male Michigan high school students were more likely than females to report using heroin.


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