If you have yet to watch the brilliant Trainspotting I recommend you remedy that straight away. In the gritty Scottish movie, the lives of a bunch of young drug addicts are chronicled. Despite being graphic and violent it is a great movie to show to teenagers as it doesn’t glorify drug use and paints it as a seedy and depressing way to live a life.
The nitty gritty
But what is the truth about heroin use? What is heroin? How is it made? Let’s take a look. For starters, it is a powerful and illegal drug. It is a type of opiate meaning it has pain killing properties. Originally it was designed by German pharmaceutical company Bayer in 1897. It was designed to cure Turbuculosis and as a cure for morphine addiction. I know it’s somewhat ironic that such an addictive drug was peddled to cure drug addiction.
How is it made?
It begins life as a poppy. You may have heard of opium poppies. Opium itself is an addictive drug and heroine is a more refined form of that. Opium is a thick milky liquid that you can retrieve from poppies by slicing open the bulb. Once you have extracted this substance you add it to a mixture of lime and boiling water.
That process leaves you with an unrefined version of heroin. Through simple filtering, you are left with a more refined product which is left to dry in the sun and eventually forms a brown paste. This then goes through several more processes before it is ready to be sold – but there isn’t a great deal of chemistry involved. It’s quite simple and that is part of the reason it is such a low-cost street drug.
Where does it come from?
Poppies are grown all over the world. Not all of them are opium poppies though. The biggest producer of opium by far is Afghanistan. However, most of the heroin produced in the US comes from far closer to home. There is a lot of poppy fields in Mexico and the drugs are smuggled north of the border. It is estimated more than 90% of the Heroin sold in the US originated in Mexico.
Effects of the drug
A heroin hit is supposed to be a high like no other. They call it “chasing the dragon” for a reason. The drug causes your body to flood with dopamine and create an instant euphoric feeling. As well as the chemical rush users will often turn pale, sweat more than usual and suffer from a dry mouth. Once the initial high wears off they will feel lazy for a few hours after and may even fall asleep.
Most people recognise that Heroin is a highly addictive substance. However, it doesn’t work quite how you see in the movies. It is not a case of people trying heroin and becoming instantly addicted. Chemically it is addictive but ultimately like with any addiction it is often the fix and the routine that provide the initial hook.
The euphoric feeling that you get from heroin lessens with time so people need increasingly large doses to feel the feeling and with the increase in drugs comes the increase in the addictiveness. Coming down from heroin is often physically painful. Often people can take months or even years trying to get clean off the drug due to the nature of it. Once addicted it can (and often does) ruin your life.
There are a few notable heroin addicts over the years. Mostly musicians. Famously Kurt Cobain mentioned about his own Heroin issue in his suicide note. It is also believed that Hendrix’s death was also linked to the drug.