Facts About Heroin And Opiates



Opium Morphine and Heroin

  • Opium comes from the sap of the papaver somniferum poppy plant.
  • Morphine comes from opium.
  • Heroin is derived from morphine.


Heroin often looks differently in different places. In general, heroin is packaged as a white powder (Asian heroin) or a black sticky substance (Mexican heroin). Heroin also goes by a number of nicknames, most of them based upon the type of heroin. For example, “black tar,” (Mexican) or “China White,” (Asian).

There are four main categories of opioids

  1. Natural opioid analgesics, including morphine and codeine, and semi-synthetic opioid analgesics, including drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone;
  2. Methadone, a synthetic opioid;
  3. Synthetic opioid analgesics other than methadone, including drugs such as tramadol and fentanyl; and
  4. Heroin, an illicit (illegally-made) opioid synthesized from morphine that can be a white or brown powder, or a black sticky substance.


Gender heroin facts:


  1. In 2015, males aged 25-44 had the highest heroin death rate at 13.2 per 100,000, which was an increase of 22.2% from 2014.


  1. More men are addicted to heroin than women.


  1. Most women heroin addicts are in a relationship with a male heroin addict.


  1. Most male heroin addicts are not in a relationship with a female heroin addict.



Heroin effects:


  1. The immediate effect of intravenous heroin use is often described as a “flash sensation,” something akin to a surge of warmth, relaxation and contentment.


  1. Top causes of death for heroin addicts are overdose, disease, accidents and homicide.


  1. Heroin addiction is defined by behavior i.e. compulsively seeking and using heroin in spite of negative consequences.


  1. Heroin dependence is a medical condition that refers to being susceptible to heroin withdrawal whenever a person stops using heroin.


  1. Heroin withdrawal is a constellation of symptoms that includes – sneezing, diarrhea, pain, cold sweats, restlessness, insomnia and more.


  1. The three main signs of a heroin overdose are pinpoint pupils, unconsciousness and respiratory depression.


Social Facts:


  1. More than nine in 10 people who used heroin also used at least one other drug.


  1. Most heroin overdoses occur at home and often in the company of others.


  1. Many new heroin addicts are in their teens or early 20s, and many come from suburban families.


  1. Most people obtain their first dose of illicit drugs from a friend, family member or romantic partner.


  1. Heroin’s street names are China white, cheeba, brown, black, tar, boy, H and more.


  1. Heroin is typically cut with quinine for China White, coffee or high fructose corn syrup from soft drinks like Dr. Pepper for Mexican Black Tar.


  1. Heroin craving may persist for years after quitting.



Scientific Facts:


  1. Heroin is classified as an opiate because it indirectly comes from opium.


  1. The two most toxic recreational drugs are GHB and heroin (diacetylmorphine). Both drugs are lethal at less than 10 times their effective dose. An “effective dose” is the amount that produces a reasonable expectancy of a drug effect.


  1. Across much of the world heroin is classified as an addictive illicit narcotic.


  1. Heroin is a lipophilic pro-drug and as such quickly permeates the blood brain barrier (BBB). In fact, heroin crosses the BBB at a rate over 100 times faster than morphine.


  1. Heroin’s lipophilicity, measured by its octanol water coefficient, is 280.


  1. Morphine’s lipophilicity, measured by its octanol water coefficient, is 1.4.


  1. Heroin is a prodrug. A prodrug is a chemical that metabolizes into another chemical before it affects the body. Heroin is administered in vivo via smoking, sniffing or intravenous administration. Within seconds after consumption it metabolizes into 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM). Over the next hour or so 6MAM will have completely metabolized again, but this time into morphine.


  1. The effects of 6-MAM and Morphine have lead to heroin being classified as both a narcotic and analgesic, which means it relaxes and relieves pain, respectively.


  1. The estimated minimum lethal dose for heroin is 200 mg, but some heroin addicts may be able to tolerate up to 10 times as much. There have been heroin related fatalities that have occurred with doses as small as 10 mg.


  1. The average timespan for a heroin user to overdose and die is more than 3 hours.


  1. The most prevalent side effect of heroin use is constipation.


  1. The acidic vinegar-like taste in heroin comes from acetic anhydride (C4 H6 O3), which is used in the manufacturing process.



Health Facts:


  1. In both humans and rodents, opioid administration leads to hyperglycemia and worsening diabetes. The mechanism appears to be decreased insulin secretion.


  1. The use of “dirty needles” when injecting heroin can spread deadly infectious diseases such as HIV, Hep B virus (HBV) and Hepatitis C Virus.


  1. Health risks from heroin use include: fatal overdose, near miss overdose, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, collapsed veins, and infection of the heart lining and valves.



Historical Facts:


  1. Heroin is a highly addictive chemical substance processed from morphine.


  1. In the 1960s, the most popular form of treatment for heroin addiction was “Civil Commitment,” which essentially placed heroin addicts in prison camps.


  1. Heroin can be injected, snorted/sniffed, or smoked. Contrary to popular opinion, all three methods can lead to heroin addiction.


  1. Heroin was invented by C.R. Alder Wright in 1874. When heroin is used in medicine it’s typically prescribed for pain, such as pain relief treatment after a heart attack. However, heroin is illegal in most places and those who use heroin typically use it to get high.


  1. Heroin was originally marketed in 1898 by the Bayer pharmaceuticals of Germany. Its recommended uses were cough suppression and treatment for morphine addiction.





  1. The biggest fallacy about heroin is that heroin gets people high. This is simply untrue. Heroin is a prodrug, and that means it first metabolizes into another chemical, namely 6-monoacetylmorphine (6MAM), before it exerts its drug effects. The conversion into 6MAM happens almost instantaneously, but the fact remains, heroin does not get anyone high.


  1. Heroin is natural, but it’s really not. There is no place in nature that you will find heroin. Crude heroin is made by mixing morphine with acetic anhydride and boiling it. This chemical bonding process is called acetylation.