Classification: Narcotic

Slang Names: Heroin - dope, H, junk, scag, smack, brown sugar, Mexican mud, horse Codeine - Schoolboy Dilaudid - Ds, dillies, stuff, pills Morphine - dope, M, Miss Emma, mud, sister

Method of Use: orally, injected, inhaled, smoked

Dependence Potential: physically and psychologically addictive

What are Opiates?

Opiates are central nervous system depressants which are often used medically to relieve pain. They are from a resin taken from poppy plants found in countries throughout the world, including Mexico, Turkey, India, China, Burma and Yugoslavia. This resin can be converted into opium, heroin, codeine and morphine. Other opiates such as meperidine (Demerol), Darvon, Percodan, Dilaudid, Talwin and Methadone are synthesized or manufactured by modifying the chemicals found in opium. Opiates have a high potential for abuse and are found in a variety of forms including: powders, liquids, tablets, syrups, and prescription from a physician such as morphine, codeine and dilaudid. These drugs are used to relieve pain, cough and diarrhea. Other opiates are popular "street" drugs such as heroin-the most potent and commonly abused opiate.

Opiates are usually taken orally except in the case of heroin which is in powder form. Heroin users generally begin sniffing the drug and then gradually advance to injecting it. The powder is dissolved in water and heated in order to reduce it to a liquid form. The user then injects the substance either subcutaneously or intravenously. Subcutaneous injection ("skin popping") is when heroin solution is injected into the layers of skin-usually in the arms or thighs. Intravenous injection ("mainlining") is when the heroin is injected into a vein. When injecting, the effects of heroin are felt within minutes and last between three to four hours-depending on the dosage.

Street heroin can be a white or brownish powder and is usually diluted or "cut" with other substances such as sugar, powdered milk or quinine in order to increase the bulk amount sold to the user.

Psychological Effects of Opiates

Like other depressants, opiates produce a tranquil and euphoric effect. Users who inject an opiate such as heroin may also experience a "rush" as the drug circulates through their system. Some users combine opiates with a stimulant such as cocaine. This is called "speedballing." The stimulant is supposed to keep the user from falling asleep from the effects of the opiate, and the opiate is supposed to reduce the hyperactive effects often caused by stimulants.

Psychological dependence is probable with continued IS e of opiates. When someone becomes dependent, finding and using the drug become their main focus. Opiates also induce tolerance-the need for more of the drug in order to produce the same effects.

Physical Effects of Opiate Use

The physical effects of opiates depend on the opiate used, its source, the doseand the method in which it is used.

Opiates slow down breathing, heart rate and brain activity and depress areas of the brain which control appetite, thirst and sexual desire. The body's tolerance to pain is also increased.

The dangers of opiates are generally caused by using too much of the drug, contamination of the drug, combining several drugs, or using unsterile needles when injecting the drug. Use of unsterile needles can lead to hepatitis, tetanus or AIDS.

Regular opiate users who abruptly stop using the drug will experience withdrawal symptoms that usually begin 4-6 hours after the last dose. Symptoms include uneasiness, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, chills, sweating, nausea, runny nose and eyes, irritability, weakness, tremors and insomnia. The intensity of these symptoms depends on how much of the drug was taken, how often and for how long. These symptoms are usually strongest 24-72 hours after they begin and can persist for 7-10 days. Sometimes sleeplessness and craving for the drug can last for several months.

Opiates are also harmful to a developing fetus. Pregnant women who are dependent on opiates have a higher risk for spontaneous abortions, breech deliveries, premature births and stillbirths. Babies born to opiate-addicted mothers often have withdrawal symptoms similar to adults. These symptoms may last several weeks or months. Researchers have also found an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) among babies born to heroin-addicted mothers.

Heroin, combined with a stimulant like cocaine, is called a 'speedball' and is extremely dangerous




Narcotics initially produce a feeling of euphoria that often is followed by drowsiness, nausea, and vomiting. Users also may experience constricted pupils, watery eyes, and itching. An overdose may produce slow and shallow breathing, clammy skin, convulsions, coma, and possible death.

Tolerance to narcotics develops rapidly and dependence is likely. The use of contaminated syringes may result in disease such as AIDS, endocarditis, and hepatitis. Addiction in pregnant women can lead to premature, stillborn, or addicted infants who experience severe withdrawal symptoms

Source: "What Works. Schools without Drugs," U.S. Dept. of Education

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