Heroin was used in the late nineteenth and early twentieth as a cough suppressant and supposedly non-addictive morphine substitute, the name was the brand name that it was marketed as by the Bayer corporation.
Before it was discovered that heroin transforms into morphine once it is in the body it was actually thought to be a cure for morphine addiction. Soon after that laws were passed in the USA to control the use of heroin, and 11 years later an international treaty was created to control the use and distribution of heroin.
In its pure form, like most opioids, heroin has few side effects besides constipation and addiction. However, when sold in the illegal market, heroin is generally adulterated with other substances which make it one of the most dangerous of the drugs out there, especially when injected intravenously. With intravenous use, the spread of blood borne diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis are a concern when needles are shared and reused. Dirty needles also add abscesses and fungal infections to the health hazards of heroin. Kidney damage may be a danger of heroin, but it is not known if it is heroin, infection caused by dirty needles or the substances added to it.
Another danger of heroin is the body's ability to build up a tolerance to the drug. The more a person uses heroin, the less effective it is in producing the desirable feelings so that the user needs to use more of the drug just to get the same feeling that the used to get with a smaller dose. This makes overdosing a major concern, with an overdose of heroin being able to cause death by anoxia if it is not treated.
Withdrawal is the physical reaction the human body will have when it is no longer exposed to heroin. All withdrawal symptoms will vary depending upon the individual and his or her history with the drug. Symptoms can be as minor as a slight headache and loss of appetite to a more severe reaction like heart attacks and strokes. Common minor symptoms of heroin withdrawal include:
- Cold or Hot Flashes
- Muscle Spasms and Cramps
- Elevated Temperature and Blood Pressure
- Feelings of Panic
Severe heroin withdrawal symptoms include:
- Heart Attack
- Intense Craving
- Convulsions or Seizures
- Extreme Depression