heroin hĕ´rəwən [key], opiate drug synthesized from morphine (see narcotic). Originally produced in 1874, it was thought to be not only nonaddictive but useful as a cure for respiratory illness and morphine addiction, and capable of relieving morphine withdrawal symptoms. Later it was discovered to have the same pharmacologic effects as morphine and to be just as addictive. In many parts of the world, it is used as an analgesic (for relief of pain), particularly for the terminally ill. Although in the United States the manufacture and importation of the drug are prohibited and it is not used medically, heroin predominates in illicit narcotics traffic because it provides more potency for less bulk than morphine and is thus easier to smuggle.
See also drug addiction and drug abuse.
Sections in this article:
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Pharmacology