Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Heroin and Other Opiates

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When debating on what to write my paper on I thought really hard. I didn't want this to be something I just threw together. Since the class was about social problems that affect different people different ways I wanted to research a topic that has had an effect on my life. Recently, I discovered that a good friend of mine, whom I will call Jane, began using Heroin. This discovery brings out mixed emotions I am angry at her; I feel sorry for her; I feel worried about her; and I am furious at who ever sold it to her. I never expected anyone I know to be a user of heroine, but it can happen to anyone. What I want to discuss are basic heroin information, the effects from the use of heroin, side effects from long-term use, the legal aspects concerning heroin, and finally recovery programs for users.

The average non-users knowledge of heroin doesn't go much further than "it's really bad, you shoot up, get addicted, and die." I found a lot of information concerning basic heroin facts that typical non-users wouldn't know. For example, heroin can have many a number of appearances and street names. Pure Heroin looks like a fine white powder with a distinct bitter taste. However, most heroin bought on the streets is not pure and can be white to dark brown in color. Some of the numerous slang terms for heroin are dope, smack, H, and junk to name a few (as cited on usdoj.gov, 00). Today under U.S. Federal Law, heroin is classified as a schedule one narcotic. Schedule one drugs are those of which have a high potential for abuse, has no current medicinal purposes, and lacks acceptable safety for use under medical supervision (as cited on erowid.org, 00).


I feel it is important to provide information on the effects of the drug itself so as to get a better understanding on why a person would continue to partake in a self-destructive lifestyle. Heroin is an Opiate, which are drugs that derive from the opium poppy, which also include Codeine, Methadone, and Opium. Users of heroin describe the experience as a feeling of relaxation, warmth and a sense of well-being. Nothing matters to the user while intoxicated. Initially, most people who use heroin feel nauseous and often vomit. This is followed by a period when the user is conscious but looks like theyre falling asleep. Another side effect from use is the decrease in breathing and heart rate. Once this has passed the user is able to interact normally with other people (as cited on brookes.ac.uk, 00).

Custom Essays on Heroin and Other Opiates

There are many negative side effects related to long-term heroin use, dependence being nearly guaranteed. Taking any opiate regularly can cause the development of a physical tolerance to the substance resulting in need for an increased dosage for the desired effect (Halgin & Whitbourne, 000, p 41). Their body starts to rely on the chemical being present, and without it they will become ill. People suffering from dependence compulsively seek out the substance, revolving their life around obtaining heroin or other opiates (Halgin & Whitbourne, 000, p 414).

Dependence is synonymous with withdraw in the case of opiates. Anywhere between six and twenty-four hours after the last time of use withdraw can occur. Someone withdrawing from an opiate habit is likely to experience several unpleasant physical symptoms. Hot and cold sweats, nausea, diarrhea and confusion are accompanied by an intense craving to take more of the drug to alleviate withdraw symptoms. Heroin withdrawal is not physically dangerous, but is not a desirable feeling (Halgin & Whitbourne, 000, p 414-415).

Long-term heroin use can also trigger serious conditions including delirium, mood disorders, sleeps disorders, and sexual dysfunction. There are also possibilities of physical damage to one's body due to long-term use. Skin infections, liver diseases, bacterial infections, and lung complications are risks when using heroin. The most serious effect from heroin use is the risk of contracting HIV, Hepatitis, and other STD's when sharing needles. Unfortunately many users are more worried about getting a fix than their health (Halgin & Whitbourne, 000, p 415).

A 16 national household survey on drug abuse estimated that .4 million people had used heroin or other illegal opiates at some point in their lives. Their survey also reports that since 1 there has been an increase in the use of heroin; trends show that between 1 and 5 there was an increase of 141,000 more users. A large chunk of these new users where persons under age twenty-six who predominately snort, or smoke the drug (as cited on usnodrugs.com, 00). A more recent statistic from the DEA, repots that in 000, approximately 1.% of the population reported heroin use at least once in their lifetime (Halgin & Whitbourne, 000, p 414) .

With heroin use on the rise, the question of what is society's role in assisting treatment and recovery for addicts should be asked. Counseling programs are offered in many communities. Narcotics Anonymous is a popular group counseling programs, which involves a twelve-step method towards recovery. Rehab is another option for addicts. While these institutions are readily available and most of the time free they are not a popular choice for heroin users. Due to heroin's addictive properties users have no intention of going cold turkey.

An increasingly popular method for treating addicts in the United States is methadone maintenance. This program provides the addict a gradual controlled quitting process. Methadone is a heroin-like substance that is commonly found in liquid form and administer orally. It is similar to heroin in that it's an opiate and highly addictive, but it is viewed as a safer alternative. The drug lasts longer than heroin and is typically taken once a day. Another positive affect is that it does not make the user drowsy. The desired goal is that recovering addicts can take the methadone to maintain withdraw symptoms and still be able to function in society (Eitzen & Zinn, 000, p 51).

The controversy over the ethics behind methadone maintience is the message that is being sent through these types of programs. Some argue that Methadone Clinics encourage the use of drugs instead of preventing use. This may be true but the fact remains that these programs provide individuals with medical supervision of their use and what they receive is clean and safe (Eitzen & Zinn, 000, p 5) .

Heroin is a problem that may not affect everyone directly, but it is a problem that may affect someone you know even if you don't expect it. I feel as a society the best route to take when trying to fix it is education and decriminalization. Programs like D.A.R.E are a good start, but they are only implemented during the elementary years if school. It is in the middle and high school years when experimentation is more likely to occur and a more in depth program should be created. When I speak of decriminalization I don't mean to advocate legal use and sale of heroin. What I feel should be done is stop treating addicts like criminals and more like persons afflicted with a disease. Incarceration should be replaced with rehabilitation and supervision once rehab has been completed. This is not a type of problem that is going to disappear anytime soon; that fact does not exclude us from taking steps to try and help our fellow man.


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