Heroin is a highly addictive drug and is the most rapidly acting of the opiates. Heroin is processed from morphine, extracted from the seed pod of certain varieties of poppy plants.
Most illicit heroin is a powder varying in color from white to dark brown. It is injected and brings with it high risk of infection, including HIV and Hepatitis C.
The short-term effects of heroin abuse appear soon after taking the drug. After the initial feeling, the user experiences an alternately wakeful and drowsy state. Due to the depression of the central nervous system, mental functioning becomes clouded. Additionally, breathing may be slowed to the point of respiratory failure.
After repeatedly using heroin for a period of time, the long-term effects of the substance begin to appear in the user. Chronic users may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, and liver disease. Additionally, pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia, may also result in the user.
One of the most significant effects of heroin use is addiction. With regular heroin use, tolerance to the drug develops. Once this happens, the abuser must use more heroin to achieve the same intensity or effect that they are seeking. As higher doses of the drug are used over time, physical dependence and addiction to the drug develop.
Within a few hours after the last administration of heroin, withdrawal may occur. This withdrawal produces effects such as drug craving, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, and vomiting. Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose and subside after about a week. In addition to the effects of the drug itself, users who inject heroin also put themselves at risk for contracting HIV, hepatitis C (HCV), and other infectious diseases.