Heroin is a highly addictive and illegal opiate drug that can be snorted, smoked, ingested or injected into a vein or a muscle, according to WebMD. The powder form of heroin may range from white to brownish in color, or it may have a sticky black consistency. Similar to prescription opioid medications, heroin binds to the opioid receptors in the brain, reducing the perception of pain and producing a pleasurable high or “rush.” The high from heroin lasts roughly as long as the high from OxyContin and other prescription painkillers, except it is cheaper and easier to obtain.
Heroin can be a deadly substance to abuse. Treatment for heroin addicts can make the difference between life and death in many cases.
Spikes in opioid use disorders, along with the stricter enforcement and regulation of prescription opioid drugs, has led many people who once abused opioid prescription painkillers to turn to heroin to get high.
A number of other factors can also increase the risk of heroin addiction, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Being male
- Being younger — ages 18 to 25 years old are most likely to develop heroin addiction
- Living in a major metropolitan area
- Being addicted to another drug, including alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and prescription opioid painkillers
- Lacking private insurance or Medicaid
- Nonmedical prescription opioid painkiller use
People who are at the greatest risk for becoming addicted to heroin are those who have been addicted to prescription painkillers. The CDC reported that people addicted to prescription opioid painkillers are 40 times more likely to develop heroin addiction.