Heroin is an extremely addictive illegal substance. Like most opioids, it is derived from the sap of the opium poppy [Papaver somniferum]. Heroin is a central nervous system depressant and creates an intense feeling of relaxation and euphoria in the user. Since the early 1990s, the problem of heroin addiction has increased dramatically in the United States. At that time more potent forms of heroin that could be snorted or smoked became widely available; while intravenous (IV) injection was a deterrent for many users, these new forms seemed less dangerous, and more people began to try heroin.
Heroin users develop a tolerance to the drug. In other words, they need ever larger amounts to recreate the initial high that they experienced. Tolerance can occur rapidly, and some users may need as much as 20 times the initial amount to get high. Withdrawal symptoms, which can occur as soon as 6 hours after the most recent use, are very unpleasant, and, for this reason, most addicts who attempt to stop using the drug on their own are unsuccessful. For more information on these potential symptoms and the safest way to stop using heroin, visit the heroin detox page.
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