Heroin is extremely addictive and is the most rapidly acting opiate in its drug classification. Opiates are defined as any naturally occurring narcotic alkaloids found in the opium poppy plant (papaver somniferum). Heroin is a semi-synthetic opioid. It is processed from morphine, which is a natural substance that is extracted from the seed pod of certain poppy plants. Many of these poppy plants are found in Asia, Mexico and Columbia. Heroin typically comes in a white or brownish powder but can also come in a black sticky substance known as “black tar” heroin. Individuals usually abuse heroin by snorting or smoking it, but it can also be injected directly into the bloodstream. Heroin is highly addictive, both physically and mentally, because it enters the brain so rapidly and produces an almost instantaneous high. Heroin abusers describe the high as feelings of intense euphoria (the rush) followed by a twilight state of sleepiness. Tolerance to heroin develops quickly and users need more and more of the drug to achieve the same intense high. This creates a cyclical pattern of higher doses of the drug that leads to an increasing addiction.

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