Heroin is sold as a white, off-white, or brown powder; it also can take the form of a sticky black substance (“black tar” heroin). The drug can be snorted, injected into a vein, or smoked (often by being heated on aluminum foil and inhaled through a straw). Prior to injecting it, users may dissolve it by burning it in a spoon.Opioids work by reducing the perception of pain and stimulating the brain’s “reward center,” producing a feeling of euphoria. Side effects include drowsiness, mental confusion, nausea, constipation, and, depending upon the dosage, slowed (or even stopped) breathing*. Other consequences include a lack of interest in activities and school or work, decreased attention to personal hygiene, and needing to take more and more of the drug to achieve the same effect (also called “tolerance”).Opioid addiction can develop from taking opioids on a regular basis, even in patients who are prescribed opioids for a legitimate medical problem. Some people may begin crushing the pills to snort or inject the drug, or they may switch to heroin, which produces an effect on the brain that is indistinguishable from that of opioid painkillers.
When people are addicted, seeking and using opioids can become one of their primary purposes in life. They may become so preoccupied with the drug that they let relationships with family and friends deteriorate. Withdrawal symptoms such as muscle and bone pain, chills, nausea, kicking movements, severe anxiety, and a strong craving for the drug can make discontinuing opioid use difficult without medical treatment.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. is in the midst of a severe epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose deaths. Overdose deaths involving opioid painkillers increased to about 17,000 deaths per year in 2010—four times the number in 1999. This increase coincided with a nearly fourfold increase in prescribed opioids for the treatment of pain.
Research now shows that the risk of addiction and tolerance generally make opioids a poor choice of treatment for chronic pain. These powerful medications are better suited for short-term acute pain or to ease end-of-life suffering.
info was provided from(www.phoenixhouse.org)