Heroin and Opiates

Identity card
Catagory: Narcotic/Depressant

Opium

Raw opium is the dried latex that is extracted from the capsule of the seeds of the Papaver Somniferum or Papaver Setigerum.

Principle Agents

The principle alcaloid contained within the dried latex is morphine (8-14%), Nascatin or Narcotine (2-8%), Paperavine (0.7-3%), Thebaine (0.2-1%). The drugs most commonly derived from opium are Heroin and Mophine.

Heroin

Heroin is a semi-snythetic drug that is prepared by the double acetylation of morphine (or the mophine contained in opium).
First synthesized in1874 and sold legally as a strong painkiller. In 1924 (USA) and 1958 (Europe) was removed from the market for its potential addictive properties.
The “quality” of heroin varies greatly on the international market, in particular the “purity”, and generally it can be found with a composition of 20-50%.

Street names

The absolutly most used name is “stuff” . Other names often used depending on the purity or the color of the powder: “brown sugar”, “sugar”, “china white” and “afghan gold”.
When heroin is associated with another substance it might have a different name, for example, when mixed with cocaine it becomes a “speed ball”.

Modes of use

Introvenous
50-250 mg are dissolved into an aqeous solution of citric acid or asorbic acid and injected introvenously. Even subcutaneous and intamuscular injections are practiced.
Inhalation
Can be by heroin laced cigarettes or by heating the heroin powder on aliminum foil and inhaling the susequent fiumes.
Sniffing or Snorting
Heroin can be snorted nasally using a straw or a rolled up piece of paper (usually money).
This method uses greater amounts of the drug than other methods to achieve the same effect.

Effects and Collateral Effects

Physiological Effects
Alterations of the respiratory volume and rythum; a complete reduction in over all respiratory functions; The slowing psychomotor functions, and the reduction and relaxation of the muscles and musculature of the stomache and the intestines; reductions in the secretions and in the digastive processes; increased contractile force in the ureters and bladder; decrease in ovulation and lack of mensturation.

Psychological Effects
An inhibitory effect on the endophine control system, and therefor on emotional behaviour and motivation, explains the emotional anesthesia in drug addicts under the effects of the substance, of their indifferance to the world and affective disinterest.
After an initial moment of intense pleasure, a so called flash, follows a state of contentment, a slowing of thoughts, gestures and actions into drowsiness.

Overdose
Happens with the excessive intake of opiodes. Heroin /opiates being a sedative that acts on the respiratory system may result in coma and death by asphyxiation.
Principle symptoms of overdose: loss of consciousness, pupils spiked, bluish, very slow breathing. The drug used to block overdose is Narcan (naloxone) often resolvse the problem quickly. However a hospitalization period of at least 24 hours is recomended, as narcan has a shoter active life than heroin/opiates, when finished the heroin/opiates still in the system may cause overdose again.

Infectious diseases
With introvenous use and the sharing of needles the infectious diseases can be: hepititus B and C, AIDS, vulvular heart disease and septicimia.

Polydrug
In recent years it has become clear that the dependence on a single substance tends to be the exception rather than the norm and that the multiple addiction (polygrug) is now the rule.
The abuse of the principle drug, heroin/opiates , is accompanied by the abuse of various other psychotropic agents, such as benzodiazepines, for example. Even the moderate use of alcohol plays a role on most occasions. Poisoning resulting from these mixtures are very often the cause of the miserable state of addicts and an explanation for the continued increase of drug related deaths.

The mechanism of action of opioides
The human body is capable of producing independant endogenous opiodes and substances called endorphines. Substances chemically similar to the derivatives of opium that have inhibitory and depressive effects on the central nervous system.

Morphine and heroin act on the central nervous system with mechanisms very similar to these endorphines, producing effects qualitativly similar to but much more powerful

Specifically, the opioides remove the inhibitors exerted by GABA (gamma-amino-butyric-acid, a neurotransmitter with inhibitory effects on the electrical activity of nerve cells) on dopaminergic neurons; so the neuron activates more than normal and releases a greater quantity of dopamine, that accumulates in the synapses.

Dose-response relationship

Different from alcohol or from alot of other medicines there isn’t a simple dose-response relationship, but it depends on a variety of factors such as the level of “habit” of the individual taker.

Tollerance

The use of opioides causes the rapid development of the mechanism of tolerance, the body gets used ti the presense of these substances and the physiological and psychological effects diminish with every dose. the individual is there for forced to take higher and higher doses of the drug to achieve the desired effects and to not meet the onset of withdrawl symptoms.

Dependence

Tolerance then leads to the physical and psychological addiction to the substance. The term cravings means the psychological component of addiction, the urge to take the drug.

Withdrawl Symptoms

Extremely unpleasant but rarely endangers life. The symptoms are so unpleasant that the possibility to avoid them is an important factor in continuing dependence.
Manifests itself as a result of not taking the opiates after only a few weeks of use.
Appears 8-16 hours after the last dose of opiates and is gradually intensified in the first 2-4 days and then fade and disappear within 5-8 days.
Signs of withdrawls: dilated pupils, runny nose, anxiety and irritability, yawning, restlesness, loss of appetite, excessive sweating, insomnia, tears, palpitations, muscle tremors, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, goose bumps and muscular cramps.

Lethal Dose

The minimum lethal dose is 200mg, although with tolerance it can arrive at doses significantly higher.