To find a list of Heroin pages, Click here to return to the first part in the series, “Introduction to Heroin Abuse and Addiction”.
Heroin: Short-Term Effects
Soon after taking heroin, it crosses the blood-brain barrier. In the brain, heroin is converted to morphine and binds rapidly to opioid receptors. Abusers typically report feeling a surge of pleasurable sensation – a “rush.” The intensity of the rush is a function of how much drug is taken and how rapidly the drug enters the brain and binds to the natural opioid receptors. Heroin is particularly addictive because it enters the brain so rapidly; With heroin the rush is usually accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth, and a heavy feeling in the extremities, which may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and severe itching.
After the initial short-lived effects, abusers usually will be drowsy for several hours. Thinking and other mental functions are clouded by heroin’s effect on the central nervous system. Cardiac function slows. Breathing is also severely slowed, sometimes to the point of death. Heroin overdose is a particular risk on the street, where the amount and purity of the drug cannot be accurately known.
The above information is from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Research Report Series – “Heroin Abuse and Addiction”. The report is also available at NIDA’s website at www.nida.nih.gov.
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