It was a sunny June morning in 1996. Jimmy Chaimberlin walked into Jonathan Melvoin’s hotel room. He found him lying unconscious in his bed and rushed to dial 911. Despite his quick reaction, when the paramedics arrived, they pronounced Melvoin dead at 4:00 a. m. on June 20, 1996. This is just one of the many fatalities that heroin causes every year and it could happen to you. In fact, heroin controls the lives of over 70,000 people in the US alone. Heroin is three times more potent than morphine, which is also derived from the opium poppy (Papaver Somniferum).
Sumerians know it as Hul Gil, or the flower f joy’. Today, this drug attracts people from all walks of life. The poor and rich and famous, the young and old are all addicted to heroin and the numbers rise every year. Although many people are using heroin, white males age 18-25 are the most likely to become addicted. These aren’t the only dangers and facts of this drug, the list goes on and on. Some facts have to do with it’s origin, effects, and how to treat an addiction.
Although many people know roughly where heroin comes from, not as many know how it is transformed from a flower to an illegal street drug. The entire metamorphosis starts with the opium poppy plant. This flower is grown chiefly by impoverished farmers in remote regions of the world. The opium poppy flourishes in the dry, warm climates of countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, Laos and Colombia. After three months, the flower’s petals fall away, exposing an egg-shaped seed pod. The opaque, milky sap is extracted from the seed pod by slitting it vertically in parallel cuts with a special curved knife.
When the sap oozes out, it forms a thick, brownish-black gum which is then bundled into bricks, cakes or balls and wrapped in plastic or leaves. From here, the opium goes back into the black market where it’s bought by merchants or brokers for transport to a morphine refinery, which are usually little more than a small neglected laboratory hidden in a jungle thicket. The opium is mixed with lime in boiling water until a white band of morphine is formed on the surface of the mixture. This is then reheated with ammonia, filtered and boiled again until it is reduced to a brown paste.
The paste is next poured into molds and dried in the sun. The fourth stage of purification involves ether and hydrochloric acid. This stage is extremely risky since, if the chemist is not careful, the gas may ignite and cause a violent explosion. The end result is a fluffy, white powder, known in the trade as number four heroin. Heroin peddlers on the street will sell this powder in small bags ranging in price from $5 to $100. Of course, the higher the purity of the heroin inside, the more expensive the bag will be.
Instead of being beneficial to the user, though, the purity can be very dangerous because the effects are stronger. The purity of street heroin used to be less than 5% pure because it would be cut from 20 to hundreds of times with many other substances before it gets to the buyer. Some substances heroin is cut with are sugar, starch, powdered milk or quinine. It is also sometimes cut with strychnine which is a poison. Other drugs are also added to heroin before it gets sold on the streets, such as marijuana and cocaine.
When marijuana is cut with heroin, it is often called “atom bomb”, cocaine and heroin are generally called “dynamite”, “speedball” or “goofball”. Heroin also has it’s own street terms, such as ack, birdie powder, George Smack, heroina or scag. Now, the heroin on the streets is usually about 70% pure. Generally, heroin in the Northeast and Midwest than it is in the South and West. No matter how pure the heroin on the streets is, there are three common ways in which it is taken. These are injecting into a vein or muscle, sniffing and smoking.
When injected into a vein, “mainlining”, heroin reaches the brain in 15 to 30 seconds, injecting heroin into a muscle, it takes 5 to 8 minutes to reach the brain. The slowest onset of euphoria is shown when it is sniffed or smoked, taking 10 o 15 minutes until peak effects are felt. The journey from an innocent-looking flower to the streets to your brain is a long one. I hope we have helped you understand it better. After all this has taken place, though, the heroin begins it’s journey into your life.
Some effects of heroin are felt immediately, others come slowly, gradually you realize what’s happening to you, but then it’s too late. Some you don’t notice because you’re too high to realize it, others cause this high. Several seconds to several minutes after you take heroin, you get a sudden mental rush and a very calm, mellow feeling. You become oblivious to where you are and many say it’s like you are dreaming or floating. As this goes on, physically your body temperature drops, your skin flushes, you begin to sweat and your pupils start to shrink.
During this rush of occurrences, you may vomit and become constipated, also. All of these happen almost immediately after having heroin, others take several hits until you or others start to see these changes. Some long term effects heroin has on the body are that your veins become inflamed or even collapse, your skin develops open sore and you get infections. After a while, you may also develop heart disease and have liver ailments. However, not all of the changes that go on in your life are physical or mental, others are behavioral.
Such changes include, decreased sexual pleasure or indifference to sex and committing a crime to get money for more heroin. Although these are bad enough consequences as to lead someone off the path to drug addiction, there are still people who take their addiction all the way. The number of deaths heroin causes goes up every year. Causes are because of an overdose, they’re so sedated, they slip into a coma, or because they got HIV or AIDS from using a dirty needle. In order to help save the addicted or dying because of heroin, there are now many treatment and prevention programs available to people.
Centers across the country are helping to reduce the addicts by preventing children from starting to use any drug. Programs such as D. A. R. E. and Star Raiders help by teaching kids the danger of using drugs and also by teaching them how to say “No”. On the other end of the spectrum are the treatment centers, these help addicts by helping them to quit using heroin. Some of the methods used by these centers are detoxification, methadone, LAAM (levo-alpha-acetyl-methadol), and behavioral therapy.
Addicts can also go to hospitals to come to terms with their addiction. Although they usually can’t offer more than methadone or detoxification, they’re still as good a place as any to go for help. After seeing what can happen to a person with a heroin addiction, you should now know enough to stay away from drugs in the future. Any drug can ruin your life, you body, and your mind. You won’t be able to think or act quickly in any situation, this state can be deadly. So, go out and tell others about the dangers of drug use and drug abuse.