Heroin Facts
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Heroin Facts

  • "Some (heroin) addicts readily admit that they prefer methadone as their drug of abuse" - International Journal of Pharmacology (1975)
  • Statistics from 1993-1995 (latest available figures) illustrate that New Mexico leads the nation in per capita heroin-related deaths.
  • The rate of overdoses in Rio Arriba county (New Mexico) is more than three times the national average.
  • Many addicts in Rio Arriba county (New Mexico) support their habits by selling to family members.
  • "Young users are turning to heroin with the intent to kill themselves. They have given up hope of any kind of happiness or life." - Dr. Murray Ryan - Espanola, New Mexico
  • In New Mexico, Rio Arriba county has the greatest problem with heroin on a per capita basis. With a population of approximately 34,000 people, the county recorded an average of 18.3 heroin-induced deaths per 100,000 inhabitants between 1993-1995.
  • As a state, New Mexico led the nation in heroin-induced deaths for the years of 1993-1995.
  • On a per capita basis, the heroin death rate for the state of New Mexico equals 11.6 persons per 100,000 inhabitants. Across the country, the per capita heroin death rate equals 5.4 deaths per 100,000 people.
  • Heroin is processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seedpod of the Asian poppy plant. Heroin usually appears as a white or brown powder. 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'.
  • Acute intoxication (overdose) with heroin is characterized by euphoria, flushing, itching of the skin (particularly with morphine), miosis, drowsiness, decreased respiratory rate and depth, hypotension, bradycardia, and decreased body temperature.
  • Many complications of heroin addiction are related to the unsanitary administration of the drug. Others are due to the inherent properties of the drug, overdose, or intoxicated behavior accompanying drug use. Common complications include pulmonary disorders, hepatitis, arthritic disorders, immunologic changes, and neurologic disorders.
  • In addition to the effects of the drug itself, street heroin may have additives that do not readily dissolve and result in clogging the blood vessels that lead to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain. This can cause infection or even death of small patches of cells in vital organs.
  • The disadvantage of continuing to describe heroin-related fatalities as 'overdoses' is that it attributes the cause of death solely to heroin and detracts attention from the contribution of other drugs to the cause of death. Heroin users need to be educated about the potentially dangerous practice of concurrent polydrug and heroin use.
  • A first priority for prevention must be to reduce the frequency of drug overdoses. We should inform heroin users about the risks of combining heroin with alcohol and other depressant drugs. Not all users will act on such information, but if there are similar behavioral changes to those that occurred with needle-sharing overdose deaths could be substantially reduced. Heroin users should also be discouraged from injecting alone and thereby denying themselves assistance in the event of an overdose.
  • Tolerance of and physical dependence on heroin develops rapidly, doses taken regularly over 2 to 3 days can lead to some tolerance and dependence, and when the drug is discontinued, the user may have mild withdrawal symptoms, which are scarcely noticed or are described as a case of influenza.
  • Withdrawal, which in regular abusers may occur as early as a few hours after the last administration, produces drug craving, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea and vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps ('cold turkey'), kicking movements ('kicking the habit'), and other symptoms. Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose and subside after about a week. Sudden withdrawal by heavily dependent users who are in poor health is occasionally fatal, although heroin withdrawal is considered much less dangerous than alcohol or barbiturate withdrawal.
  • Some physical indications of use include: extreme loss of appetite and weight; needle tracks or punctures; black and blue marks from "skin popping"; scars along veins; cramps; nausea; vomiting; excessive scratching and complaint of itching; sweating; constipation; raw, red nostrils from snorting; runny nose; pin-point pupils and watery eyes; reduced vision; drowsiness; euphoria; trance-like states; excessive thirst; tremors; twitching; unkempt appearance; strong body odor; irritability; chills; slight hallucinations and lethargy.
  • The variability in quality of street heroin can range from 0-90%, which greatly increases the risk of accidental overdose and death.
  • According to the National Household Survey for 1994, 2.2 million Americans have tried heroin; 191,000 had used it in the previous 30 days.
  • Heroin's potent pain-relieving properties may actually conceal symptoms of real physical illness or disease such as pneumonia and delay treatment.

Heroin Facts
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