The Hard Truth Behind Heroin Addiction
The History of Heroin
Regulation soon followed, with heroin becoming prescription-only in 1914 and by 1924 banned entirely. It is now a Schedule I drug in the United States, meaning it has absolutely no recognized medical use and is highly illicit. Nonetheless, heroin abuse remained widespread for much of the 20th century. Many prominent jazz and rock and roll musicians became widely known for their addictions to heroin. The result was that heroin became something of a cultural touchstone. In the 1990s, the unhealthy strung-out look of heroin addicts even became fashionable, with runway models embodying the “heroin chic” aesthetic experiencing high demand.
What is Heroin?
Heroin Street Names
Heroin goes by many names. Even “heroin” itself is merely a defunct brand name devised by Bayer. The substance’s chemical name is diamorphine. However, on the street heroin goes by a number of slang names. Part of the reason for this is to prevent detection by authorities. Since heroin is an illicit drug, it is often safer for distributors, users, and anyone in possession of heroin to use alternative names to avoid criminal consequences. People who buy heroin online or on the street often find it marketed under a variety of different names. Heroin, for better or for worse, also has a thriving culture around its use, and is widely associated with music, the arts, and many subcultures. As such, its street names are always rapidly multiplying.
Different Forms of Heroin
While heroin comes in many forms due to differences in the processing process, all heroin produces the same effects and poses similar risks. The differences between the different types mostly amount to different levels of refinement. Certain types of heroin are better suited to certain routes of administration. Some are cheaper or more widely available in certain areas. It is crucial to understand that there is, however, no “safe” formulation of heroin.
This type of heroin, if it’s not obvious from the name, comes in the form of white to off-white powder. It is easy to mistake it for cocaine. However, white powder heroin can be distinguished from cocaine by its bitter taste and vinegar-like smell. While this form of heroin tends to be more highly refined than other varieties, it is not necessarily more potent, as distributors often cut it with other substances, among them lactose, talc, caffeine, and sugar. While white powder heroin can be snorted, this form is most frequently used by people injecting heroin directly. Due to the high temperature at which white powder heroin burns, it is difficult to smoke. It is most commonly available in the eastern areas of the United States. This type of heroin is mostly derived from Mexico and parts of South America.
Originating mostly from Mexico, black tar heroin dominates the market west of the Mississippi, though it is sometimes available on the East Coast as well. This dark substance ranges in consistency from rocklike hardness to a gooey mush. Like white powder, it has a strong vinegar-like smell. Its dark coloration is actually a result of contaminants added to the mix. As a result, black tar heroin is far less refined and pure than white powder heroin. Generally, people using black tar heroin dilute it before smoking or injecting. Due to the high levels of contaminants in black tar heroin, however, people injecting it put themselves at a high risk of skin infections in addition to the usual risks heroin poses.
Produced in Mexico and most commonly available on the West Coast, brown powder heroin has recently seen a surge in popularity, especially among populations like teenagers who would normally hesitate to try heroin. Brown powder, named for its color, is generally less refined and expensive than white powder, but more refined than black tar. Sometimes, however, it is the result of black powder being mixed with additives and crushed to make it easier for users to snort. It is often smoked as well.
How Long Does Heroin Stay in Your System?
“How long does heroin stay in your system?” is a common question among people who are beginning the process of quitting. Heroin actually has a relatively short half life of 30 minutes, meaning that after half of an hour the body has already processed and eliminated half of the substance. However, a number of factors influence how long heroin stays in your urine or in your blood, among them age, general health, body fat levels, and the amount consumed. Generally heroin can be detected for several days afterwards. For individuals beginning the process of withdrawing from heroin, the more pertinent question to ask is, “How long does it take to detox from heroin?” Generally, symptoms begin after approximately 6 hours, peak in 1-3 days, and gradually subside after a week. However, because symptoms can be so severe and relapse is highly likely even after successful withdrawal, it is generally best to withdraw at a treatment facility and seek formal addiction care afterwards.