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General Information About Heroin

Heroin is processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the
seedpod of the Asian poppy plant. Heroin usually appears as a white or brown powder.
Street names for heroin include "smack," "H," "skag," and "junk." Other names may refer to
types of heroin produced in a specific geographical area, such as "Mexican black tar."

Heroin Health Hazards

Heroin abuse is associated with serious health conditions, including fatal overdose,
spontaneous abortion, collapsed veins, and, particularly in users who inject the drug,
infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

The short-term effects of heroin abuse appear soon after a single dose and disappear in a
few hours. After an injection of heroin, the user reports feeling a surge of euphoria ("rush")
accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, a dry mouth, and heavy extremities. Following
this initial euphoria, the user goes "on the nod," an alternately wakeful and drowsy state.
Mental functioning becomes clouded due to the depression of the central nervous system.
Long-term effects of heroin appear after repeated use for some period of time. Chronic
users may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses,
cellulitis, and liver disease. Pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia,
may result from the poor health condition of the abuser, as well as from heroin’s depressing
effects on respiration.

Heroin abuse during pregnancy and its many associated environmental factors (e.g., lack of
prenatal care) have been associated with adverse consequences including low birth weight,
an important risk factor for later developmental delay.

In addition to the effects of the drug itself, street heroin may have additives that do not
readily dissolve and result in clogging the blood vessels that lead to the lungs, liver,
kidneys, or brain. This can cause infection or even death of small patches of cells in vital

Heroin Addiction and Withdrawal

With regular heroin use, tolerance develops. This means the abuser must use more heroin
to achieve the same intensity of effect. As higher doses are used over time, physical
dependence and addiction develop. With physical dependence, the body has adapted to
the presence of the drug and withdrawal symptoms may occur if use is reduced or stopped.

Withdrawal, which in regular abusers may occur as early as a few hours after the last
administration, produces drug craving, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia,
diarrhea and vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps ("cold turkey"), kicking movements
("kicking the habit"), and other symptoms. Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 48
and 72 hours after the last dose and subside after about a week. Sudden withdrawal by
heavily dependent users who are in poor health is occasionally fatal, although heroin
withdrawal is considered less dangerous than alcohol or barbiturate withdrawal.

Treatment for Heroin

There is a broad range of treatment options for heroin addiction, including medications as
well as behavioral therapies. Science has taught us that when medication treatment is
integrated with other supportive services, patients are often able to stop heroin (or other
opiate) use and return to more stable and productive lives.

In November 1997, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) convened a Consensus Panel on
Effective Medical Treatment of Heroin Addiction. The panel of national experts concluded
that opiate drug addictions are diseases of the brain and medical disorders that indeed can
be treated effectively. The panel strongly recommended (1) broader access to methadone
maintenance treatment programs for people who are addicted to heroin or other opiate
drugs; and (2) the Federal and State regulations and other barriers impeding this access be
eliminated. This panel also stressed the importance of providing substance abuse
counseling, psychosocial therapies, and other supportive services to enhance retention and
successful outcomes in methadone maintenance treatment programs. The panel’s full
consensus statement is available by visiting the NIH Consensus Development Program Web
site at consensus.nih.gov.

Methadone, a synthetic opiate medication that blocks the effects of heroin for about 24
hours, has a proven record of success when prescribed at a high enough dosage level for
people addicted to heroin. Other approved medications are naloxone, which is used to treat
cases of overdose, and naltrexone, both of which block the effects of morphine, heroin, and
other opiates.

Buprenorphine is the most recent addition to the array of medications available for treating
addiction to heroin and other opiates. This medication is different from methadone in that it
offers less risk of addiction and can be dispensed in the privacy of a doctor's office. Several
other medications for use in heroin treatment programs are also under study.

For the pregnant heroin abuser, methadone maintenance combined with prenatal care and
a comprehensive drug treatment program can improve many of the detrimental maternal
and neonatal outcomes associated with untreated heroin abuse. There is preliminary
evidence that buprenorphine also is safe and effective in treating heroin dependence during
pregnancy, although infants exposed to methadone or buprenorphine during pregnancy
typically require treatment for withdrawal symptoms. For women who do not want or are
not able to receive pharmacotherapy for their heroin addiction, detoxification from opiates
during pregnancy can be accomplished with relative safety, although the likelihood of
relapse to heroin use should be considered.

There are many effective behavioral treatments available for heroin addiction. These can
include residential and outpatient approaches. Several new behavioral therapies are
showing particular promise for heroin addiction. Contingency management therapy uses a
voucher-based system, where patients earn "points" based on negative drug tests, which
they can exchange for items that encourage healthful living. Cognitive-behavioral
interventions are designed to help modify the patient’s thinking, expectancies, and
behaviors and to increase skills in coping with various life stressors.

Heroin Drug Testing

Testing for heroin use is simple.  Drug testing can now be done privately at home or work
with an easy to use instant
drug test kit from Uritox Medical. If you have any questions or
concerns please feel free to contact us.

Information provided by UriTox, LLC and The National Drug Abuse Organization.
Heroin Information
2-4 days
6-12 Hours
6 Hours
90+ Days
Detection period
Please note these are estimated times. Detection time is an average and can vary greatly.  Detection time can
vary due to multiple circumstances including but not limited to length and amount of use.
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