What is heroin? Is heroin an opiate? Is it addictive and why people use it?…

There is a big list of questions and we will answer some of them in this article.

Heroin is one of the most popular illegal drugs in the world. It’s chemical name is Diacetylmorphine. According to, “Diacetylmorphine is a semi-synthetic opioid. It is the 3,6-diacetyl derivative of morphine (hence diacetylmorphine) and is synthesized from it by acetylation. The white crystalline form is commonly the hydrochloride salt, diacetylmorphine hydrochloride. It has a high addiction potential, and frequent administration may cause a rapid development of tolerance by the user, especially when compared to other substances, though occasional use may not lead to symptoms of withdrawal. Additionally, diacetylmorphine internationally is controlled under Schedules I and IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. It is illegal to manufacture, possess, or sell in the United States; however, under the name diamorphine, it is a legal prescription drug in the United Kingdom.”

Heroin as an opiate

As written above, heroin is an opioid, we consider it necessary to refer to some information about opium.opium poppy

So what does opium look like? – Opium is a dried milky liquid extracted from the immature opium poppy seed pods. Once the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) finishes blossoming, the seed pods are being scratched. A milky liquid, also called latex, appears from the scratches. Than it drys out, becomes gummy and changes its colour to brown. After it is dehydrated, it can be used further to smoking and preparing the opiates.

Heroin is not produced from opium directly. Firstly, morphine needs to be isolated from opium and then heroin can be synthesized from it. Heroin is known to be about two to three times the effect of morphine. Heroin’s chemical structure can be viewed at

Its Molecular formula: C21H23NO5, Molecular weight: 369.4 g/mol. Diamorphine (diacetylmorphine; CAS-561-27-3) is produced by the acetylation of crude morphine. The systematic name (IUPAC) is (5α,6α)-7,8-didehydro-4,5-epoxy-17-methylmorphinan-3,6-diol acetate. Although five pairs of enantiomers are theoretically possible in morphine, only one occurs naturally (5R, 6S, 9R, 13S, 14R). Heroin contains a varied amount of other opium alkaloids and acetylated alkaloids such as noscapine, papaverine and acetyl codeine, adulterants including caffeine and paracetamol. Other less common psychoactive adulterants include diazepam, methaqualone and phenobarbitone. The hydrolysis product (6-monoacetylmorphine) may be present and may arise when it is stored in damp conditions or in non-acidified aqueous solutions. The free base constitutes 87.2 % of the hydrate hydrochloride salt.

The purity and the physical forms of heroin depend on where it is produced. Mexican Black tar is a gummy or hard solid piece of a low purity. Southwest Asian heroin is a brown powder in the form of the free base, which is insoluble in water but soluble in organic solvents. Southeast Asian heroin is usually a white powder in the form of the hydrate hydrochloride salt (CAS-1502-95-0), which is soluble in water but insoluble in organic solvents. European countries purity varies considerably. Users mode of use smoking heroin by heating the solid on a metal foil above a small flame and inhaling the vapor; and injecting the heroin which must be solubilize with citric acid or ascorbic acid. Heroin from southeast Asia is suitable for direct injection of a solution. It may be ingested too but as an analgesic drug, but this is not as effective compared to smoking it or through injection.

How addictive is heroin?

Heroin is very addictive because it provides users a very pleasant or even euphoric sensation, feelings of warmth and sleepiness. It also decreases sensations of pain. This often becomes the reason why it is the favorite drug of people undergoing physical and emotional stress.  Because it is strong analgesic drug, heroin is used in some countries legally for acute pain conditions such physical trauma/injury, post-surgical pain, myocardial infarction, and chronic painful conditions that cannot be managed by conventional pain medications such as NSAIDs. Smaller doses of heroin have the same effect as larger dose of morphine has. Most doctors where heroin can be used legally prefer to prescribe heroin over morphine because heroin is more lipid soluble and which means it can target tissues more easily and is more potent.

People living through a depression are the potential heroin users.People living through a depression are the potential heroin users. Being tired of everyday problems and overwhelmed by family relationships issues, they can easily agree to try a small dose to abstract. Their mental state typically doesn’t let them evaluate the danger they face and the impacts.

Another group of risk are teenagers. Many of them consider it vitally important to show their coolness, others try to cope with the issues typical for their age. Unfortunately the methods they use to reach their aims can be life-wreckable.

A lot of people willing to try heroin do not want to recognize the impacts they will face after trying. They think: “No, that’s not about me. It will never happen to me”. So what are the impacts the newbies are possibly going to face? – Addiction, wheelchair, coma, death… There are also a lot of other unpleasant things which will happen to every heroin user for sure. Heroin destroys not only user’s physical state, but social state as well. The user starts lying to people around, loses respect to anybody and gets a public response of contempt and distrust. Actually, he/she doesn’t care about it, since the only thing they need is a dose….

Short and long term effects of heroin  

The first and pleasurable feelings user gets from taking heroin are called the “high”.

It can last from about 15 minutes (when snorting) to several hours (when injecting or smoking). This individual rate depends on the user’s tolerance to heroin. Nausea, vomiting, euphoria, drowsiness, warmth, nodding off, slow speech, confusion are the feelings the user has during the high. Euphoria itself lasts no longer than a couple of minutes. Those were the short term effects heroin causes. The long term effects are pretty unpleasant:

  • Intellectual degradation
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Weakened immune system and Infectious diseases: HIV, Hepatitis B and C
  • Respiratory illnesses
  • Collapsed veins
  • Arthritis
  • DepressionThe long-term effects of heroin.
  • Introversion
  • Constipation
  • Dental problems
  • Insomnia
  • Itching
  • Exhaustion
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Inability to achieve orgasm (women and men)

This is not the whole list of problems the user gains with starting using heroin.

Heroin overdose

A danger of overdose is life-threatening for both long-time users and newbies. With time, the same dose of heroin stops bringing the feelings the users experienced earlier. This makes them increase the dose every time. Due to heroin specificity of breathing decrease the over-dose typically becomes fatal someday.

The heroin overdose signs are: bluish fingernails and lips, depressed breathing, pinpoint pupils, dry mouth, discolored tongue, weak pulse, stomach spasms or cramping, delirium or disorientation, sleepiness, unconsciousness, coma, death.

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