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Drug Information

(smack, skag, H, brown)


What is heroin?

Heroin is a painkilling drug derived from the sap of the opium poppy. Street heroin is a brownish powder. Other opiates with a similar effect to heroin include morphine, diconal, codeine, pethidine and methadone (often prescribed as a legal substitute for heroin).

How is it used?

The most common way heroin is used is either by smoking or injecting. When smoked the powder is heated on foil and the fumes inhaled through a tube. In order to inject heroin it has to be heated on a spoon, mixed with water, and an acid added - such as Vit C or citric acid (other acids such as lemon juice can cause fungal infections such as thrush). It is then drawn up in a syringe through a filter, often from a cigarette, to filter out impurities. Heroin can also be snorted. Injecting increases the risk of overdose and hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV (through sharing injecting equipment).

What are the effects?

Heroin has a sedative-like effect and depresses nervous system activity and reflex functions such as coughing, breathing and heart-rate, at the same time it dilates blood vessels giving a feeling of warmth.

People may also experience feelings of drowsiness, well-being and contentment. This combined with the drug’s painkilling properties can give feelings of detachment from both physical and emotional pain. First time use of heroin is often accompanied by nausea and vomiting.

With long-term use tolerance develops resulting in a need to increase the amount being used in order to achieve the same effect. Long-term heroin use can result in people using heroin just to be able to function “normally”. Physical dependency and withdrawal is a feature of heroin use. The body actually needs the drug or physical withdrawal begins with symptoms such as sweats, cramps, runny nose and chills.

Legal Status

Heroin is a Class A drug.

  • The maximum penalty for possessing a Class A drug is seven years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.
  • The maximum penalty for supplying a Class A drug is life imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.


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