What Does Heroin Look Like? – Heroin is an extremely addictive semi-synthetic illicit drug derived from morphine. Pure heroin (diamorphine hydrochloride) is found as a fine, white powder, but can also range in color from gray to beige, pink, brown, and even black. Colored heroin occurs due to the substance being laced with adulterants, such as caffeine, sugar, powdered milk, quinine, or other drugs.
Some heroin powder may be courser than others, and black tar heroin, as the name suggests, is a tar-like, tacky substance that ranges from dark brown to black. This is the least pure form of heroin due to the rudimentary way in which it’s processed.
Methods of Administration
Heroin can be injected, snorted, or smoked. Injection is generally the most popular form of use because it is delivered more rapidly to the brain, resulting in a more intense high. In addition to the destructive effects of the heroin itself, intravenous drug use can also result in severe skin sores and infections, abscesses, and collapsed veins.
Smoking heroin involves the person burning the drug and inhaling smoke into the lungs through a pipe. Smoking heroin is also commonly referred to as “chasing the dragon.” The high that results from smoking the drug is not as intense as when administered intravenously, but is still popular among those who aren’t interested in injecting.
Like injecting, however, smoking heroin also comes with several dangers associated with the specific method of use. For example, those who smoke the drug face a higher risk of respiratory issues such as bronchitis and pneumonia, as well as widespread injury to other organs such as the brain, heart, and liver.
Snorting heroin involves inhaling the drug into the nasal cavity. Not unlike cocaine, snorting heroin can lead to nasal infections and irreversible damage to the septum and surrounding tissues.
Why Heroin Is So Addictive
Using heroin results in a euphoric high or “rush” that lasts up to 30 minutes. When heroin penetrates the blood-brain barrier, it attaches to specific receptors that release a massive surge of dopamine, a chemical messenger associated with feelings of well-being, reward, and relaxation.
After repeated use, heroin becomes addictive due to the development of tolerance and dependence. Tolerance occurs as the brain begins to require increasing amounts of the drug to achieve heroin’s sought-after effects. This occurs as a result of the body’s propensity to diminish the response of a psychoactive substance following multiple exposures.
When tolerance occurs, users are driven to use increasing amounts to feed their habit, which also increases the risk of overdose. Some users turn to even more powerful opioids, such as fentanyl, to produce a high.
Dependence occurs as the brain and body grow accustomed to the drug’s presence and can no longer function correctly without it. When the person tries to quit, the body responds by inducing highly-unpleasant mental and physical withdrawal effects. These effects are one of the primary reasons why people continue to use the drug despite their desire to quit—to negate withdrawal symptoms and satiate the cravings associated with discontinuation of use.
Street Names for Heroin
Heroin is commonly known on the street by many different names, some of which are related to its color or purity. Slang/street names for heroin include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Birdie Powder
- China White
- White Stuff
- White Girl
- White Boy
- White Lady
- White Horse
- Black Tar
- Black Stuff
- Black Pearl
- Black Eagle
- Brown Crystal
- Brown Sugar
- Brown Tape
- Mexican Brown
- Big H
- Hell Dust
Treatment for Heroin Addiction
Heroin addiction is a life-threatening disease most effectively treated by mental health and medical providers in a clinical setting. Our staff includes addiction professionals and other healthcare personnel trained to develop and facilitate individualized programs that treat the symptoms of substance abuse, addiction, and withdrawal.
Treatment typically begins in our medical detox center, where patients are supervised 24 hours a day for several days. During this time, pharmaceuticals may be administered to relieve many of the worst symptoms of withdrawal.
Following detox, patients are urged to enter one of our long-term treatment programs, which include residential and partial hospitalization formats. Both types of programs feature behavioral therapy, individual and family counseling, holistic practices such as meditation and yoga, and participation in 12-step group support programs.
If you or your loved one is suffering from heroin addiction, we encourage you to seek help as soon as possible. Call us today and discover how we help those who need it most overcome active addiction and foster the happy, drug-free lives they deserve!