There are very few drugs out there that are as misunderstood as heroin. This is understandable considering the massive smear campaign that has been launched against is. Everyone has heard stories of the horrible things heroin addicts do to get their hands on it. Most people have heard it described as a total body orgasm. Many addicts will tell you that they’d rather die than not use, and often those who do use it die anyway. Even getting it in your system requires a lot of work. Why would someone want to inject themselves 4, 5, 6, 8, 10 times a day if it wasn’t just about the best feeling thing on the plant? With all of the risk people willing to take, extreme behavior and negative side effects users put up with just to get it in their veins , it’s got to at least feel great, right? Most people aren’t willing to put up with all that. They don’t want people to think poorly of them and to be rejected by their friends and family. They’re not willing to spill blood just to find out what it’s like. They don’t want to become addicted. They don’t want to risk the legal ramifications. And they certainly don’t want to risk death. These are all very legitimate reasons. If only because of addiction, it’s a smart choice to never take heroin. But with the rumors and hype and propaganda and outright lies spreading like wildfire, it makes for a very uneducated public. Inevitably facts will be eschewed by hysteria, users will be vilified and heroin itself… well, everyone knows it’s the “Devil Drug”.
For most, all of that negative press is enough to make them steer clear. But for others, it will be seen as the ultimate milestone, a right of passage that will escalate them into the drug using elite. And still another group just won’t believe all the government propaganda and will want to find out for themselves. After all, that’s what they said about pot, right? Regardless of personal opinion, I think everybody could benefit from a little education. Because heroin users aren’t going anywhere. Misinformation will only leads to unnecessary fear, ineffective policies, (which can perpetuate disease and even death, on top of enforcing an inhumane punitive system), glamorization of the drug to those inclined to rebel, a nationwide health concern, addiction programs that don’t work and the complete ostracization of a a fairly large group of our society – which in my opinion the worst thing that can happen in a “civilized” country. If there is be any success in addressing heroin addiction, then there needs to be accurate understanding of heroin and why it causes people to act the way they do. Otherwise, addicts won’t be receptive to those trying to help because they won’t feel understood. And people attracted to the drug because of the misinformation will be ill-prepared to deal with the consequences once they try it.
So, let’s start with the basics. How does heroin make you feel? With all of the hype about this drug, it’s got to be the absolute best feeling drug on the planet, right? That total body orgasm that people talk about. It must be a mind-blowingly incredible high, right? Wrong. Heroin has a subtle effect. It can be very disappointing to people who are used to MDMA, THC or even alcohol. It doesn’t provide a body buzz even remotely similar to things like ecstasy. And the effects are much more subtle than the all consuming, mind dulling high of weed. Don’t get me wrong, the feeling is very nice. But it’s just that, nice. If you have zero opiate tolerance whatsoever and have ever taken a Vicodine, you have the basic idea of what heroin feels like. It does just what opiates were created to do. Take away severe pain and give you a sense of general well being. It does that very well. If you like harder drugs like MDMA and are looking for something similar, heroin is not the drug for you. There will be no life changing epiphanies on heroin. There will be no sensual body buzz. There will be no communion with the universe. It dulls pain and it dulls the sense. Period. That’s why many people are able to try heroin and decide that it’s not the drug for them. In fact, many people experience many negative side effects as well. Nausea is extremely common, as is constipation. For many people who try it, those side effects aren’t worth the mild euphoria. So they don’t use it again. Heroin users can do a shot and then proceed with their normal day, interacting with society, going to work, having dinner with their family, without anyone being the wiser. The notion that we all lounge around luxuriating in our own skin is completely inaccurate. Try MDMA if that’s the experience you’re looking for. Even with an IV injection, the rush is nice, and the high is nice. It won’t knock your socks off and if you have any experience with other drugs, it will probably be disappointing.
So, why do people keep using it then? Why would people decide to throw their entire lives away, be outcasts of society and risk becoming a slave to the opium poppy because it’s just “nice”? For many people, that feeling of “nice” is a very real escape from a terrible reality. Many users really do have terrible pasts they are running from. But not all of us. For others, like me, it provided a much more pleasant alternative than the more socially acceptable drugs. There’s no hang over (until you develop a physical addiction), you can take it all day long and still work and accomplish all your daily tasks, because it doesn’t give you such an intense high. Sure, when I’m partying I wanted that intense MDMA or meth or whatever buzz. But on a regular basis, heroin – and all opiates for that matter – provide a better alternative than getting mind numbingly plastered. All opiates provide that same feeling. But one of the huge downsides of opiates is that tolerance is rapidly developed, causing pill poppers to keep seeking a stronger and stronger alternative, until they finally find heroin. In addition, opiates are extremely addictive. So while you are building your tolerance, you are also building a physically dependency, which will soon lead to addiction. Addiction is a huge downside of heroin use. I do want to address addiction, but it will require a blog of its own. For now, let’s continue with misconceptions.
There is a very common characteristic of a junky. A rail thin, pale faced shell of a human who is wasting away from the inside because of all the damage heroin has done to their body. In fact, this was a very real concern my mother has expressed to me. “Aren’t you afraid of all the damage you’re doing to your body?” This is a really hard one for the straight world to accept. But the truth of the matter is, heroin – especially when compared to other street drugs – does not cause any damage to the body. It doesn’t damage your organs like meth or even alcohol. It doesn’t make you lose weight. In fact, if anything is will make you gain weight because it causes a severe sweet tooth. It doesn’t prematurely age you. It doesn’t overtax your heart or lungs. Heroin does not damage the body at all. And this is not theory. Nor is it up for debate. Countless medical studies have been done that prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt. Just about every other drug is worse for you than heroin. Cocaine, Vicodine, Cigarettes, meth, alcohol – are all much, much worse for you than heroin. Weed is even more damaging if you consider the negative side effects of the smoke itself. When you consider the fact that heroin was intended to be a medicine, and is still a medicine in other counties, it makes sense. There is very little difference between heroin and the strong opiate pills still prescribed today. Even IV injections are basically harmless. Of course, repeated IV injections that are administered by users who don’t practice proper harm reduction can have damaging side effects, like abscesses and collapsed veins. Along those same line, communicable diseases spread by sharing needles can be servery damaging to the body, and even cause death. But all of those health risks can be avoided by responsible users. I am no more at risk than a non-IV drug user, because I never share needles and always use a fresh one with each injection.
Medical experts generally agree that most health concerns associated with heroin use stem from the high-risk “junky” lifestyle that many heroin addicts succumb too. But not all addicts live that type of lifestyle. The ones that do have often run out of other options. They may have a felony after being charged with possession, baring them from most that would pay them enough to support their habit. Even without a felony it’s hard to get any jobs when you have track marks. Others just don’t feel comfortable co-mingling with the straight world because they know how harshly they are judged. If alcohol was illegal, alcoholics would have to resort to the same things. Although many will flame me for making such a claim and many will likely think I’m a dumb junky who’s just trying to justify my irresponsible use, the truth is heroin is not bad for your body. It’s the prohibition and subsequent smear campaigns on heroin and its users that pose all the major health threats related to its use. has created the vast majority of the dangers associated with heroin.
At this point, you may be saying to yourself, “But people die from heroin every day. What about the risk of overdose?”It’s a fair question and actually the topic I would like to talk about next. This is my moms biggest concern with my use. Every time you turn on the news there seems to be another death related to heroin. And it is a legitimate concern and I’m going to that it’s not real because it is. But like everything else, it can be avoided. One of the most popular myths about heroin is that it will eventually kill you. Any user who’s had a concerning friend try to talk them out of using had heard “Do you want to die early? It will kill you.” And while it certain can kill you, it’s not like one in every 500 shots of heroin is a loaded hot shot waiting to kill you. There are many contributing factors that cause a heroin related death. And all of them can be avoided by a smart user who is not using heroin as method of slow suicide. First, tolarnce is a major factor. Opiate tolerance builds up quickly and then fades with time once you stop using. One of the reasons my parents haven’t tried to throw me in a rehab is because my mom has seen on TV many times celebrities who go to rehab, get out, and then OD shortly after. When she asked why, I told her it was because they were accustom to taking a certain amount and when they get out of rehab, they take they same amount that they used to, but their tolerance has dropped and their bodies can’t handle that much anymore. Heroin, like alcohol and benzo’s like Xanax, is a central nervous system depressant. It slow down your breathing and heart rate. Too much of this any you stop breathing altogether. When you’ve been using heroin for a while and your tolerance increases, you need more to achieve the same effects. It’s tempting to want to keep increasing your dose so that you still feel the same effects that you felt when you first started. But there is only so much you can depress your heart rate and breath before it just can’t go any lower and you die. But even still, this take a lot of heroin. It’s extremely rare that heroin over doses happen with just heroin. In almost every single case there is a combination of drugs that contribute to the death, alcohol and benzo’s being the most common. There is no real way to accurately calculate your tolerance when you combine drugs. If you are concerned about overdosing on heroin, there are a few things you can do that will practically guarantee it won’t happen. 1.) Don’t take any amount before building up to it. Meaning, don’t take one balloon one day, then the next day decide you want to get really high and take four balloons. 2.) If you take a day or few off, take half as much as you took before you stopped. 3.) If you take a week or more off, start at beginning and take the lowest dose possible. 3.) Never, ever, ever mix depressants with heroin. Period. If all of these rules are followed, you will have basically zero chance of OD’ing.
There are many more misconceptions that I’d like to address, but this blog is long enough. I’ll save those for a Part 2. I’m not writing all of this as some sort of endorsement for heroin use. If only for the fact that it’s illegal and you could spend time behind bars, I would never suggest that anyone try it. But the fact is, many people are trying it. And many people are addicted to it. And many people have loved ones they are concerned for who addicts. Addiction can be a very terrible thing, not because society say it’s wrong to be addicted, but because it can change who you are and it does take away some of your free will, or at your prescription of free will. Many users even believe a lot of the inaccurate hype about heroin and start living and becoming and thinking of themselves as that negative stereotype. If we could strip away all the fluff, all the lies, all the hype, all the stigma, all the negative propaganda, we would be much more equipped to address the actual problems that heroin causes. We would even be able to completely eradicate some of the problems. Heroin is not the devil in a syringe. It’s just another opiate medication. We as a society have made it into what it represents today. In this case, perception has been made reality. If we can take a step back and look at just facts, it might help ease the growing concern of the nation. More importantly, I could even help save the lives of people with families who loves them who much of society has written off as nameless faces not worth saving.