Picture of Heroin molecule

Heroin

Chemical Name:
(1) diacetylmorphine and (2) (5a,6a)-7,8-didehydro-4,5-epoxy- 17-methylmorphinan-3,6-diol diacetate (ester)
Classification:
Opioid
Primary Uses:
Analgesia (outside of USA)
Brand Names:
Slang:
Smack, junk, H, diesel, dope, Harry

General Information

Heroin, synthesized from morphine and acetic anhydride, was invented in 1874 by C.R. Alder Wright, an English chemist. In 1898, Bayer began marketing heroin as a non-addictive morphine substitute. Heroin was also used for a wide variety of ailments, including colds, coughs, diarrhea, and pain. The British Pharmaceutical Codex stated that heroin was just as addictive as morphine in 1911, and in 1913, Bayer stopped production of the so-called "wonder drug." About a decade later, in 1924, the Heroin Act made the sale, manufacturing, and possession of heroin illegal in the United States of America.

Legal Status

In the United States, this drug is a Schedule I substance, making it illegal. Schedule I substances, such as marijuana, GHB, and LSD, meet the following criteria according to the Controlled Substances Act:

Side Effects

Some of the possible side effects of heroin are listed below:1

  • Pain relief
  • Euphoria or dysphoria
  • Mood changes
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Sedation
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Tachycardia
  • Decreased libido (sex drive)
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Facial flushing
  • Vertigo

Withdrawal

Withdrawal from heroin can occur in as little as a few hours to 24 hours after the last administration, depending on factors such as frequency of use, dosage, as well as body chemistry. Acute withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours, and are generally gone within a week; however, post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) can persist for weeks or months afterward. Withdrawal is rarely fatal, and is largely dependent upon the user's health, whereas withdrawal from alcohol or benzodiazepines can easily result in death. Symptoms of heroin withdrawal are listed below:2

  • Cravings
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Restlessness
  • Goose bumps
  • Involuntary leg or arm movements
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Sources

[1] DIAMORPHINE HYDROCHLORIDE: British National Formulary. British National Formulary. BMJ Publishing Group Ltd and RPS Publishing. 2006. Accessed: November 1, 2006. (Note: See MORPHINE SALTS page.)
[2] NIDA InfoFacts: Heroin. National Institute on Drug Abuse. May 2006. [PDF] Accessed: November 1, 2006. Last Accessed: February 18, 2009.