heroin: Heroin Use

Heroin is usually injected intravenously, but may also be injected intramuscularly or under the skin, smoked, or sniffed; effects last three to six hours. In some cases addicts gather in places called shooting galleries, often located in vacant buildings, which supply the necessary paraphernalia (e.g., hypodermic needle and spoon to heat and liquefy the heroin). Sharing of heroin needles significantly increases the risk of acquiring AIDS (from contaminated blood left in the syringe). Different distributors of heroin often assign brand names to their products to enhance rumors of their strength (Death Wish, DOA) or effects (Evening's Delight, Magic). Because the drug's strength and purity are unmonitored, each administration brings with it the possibility of overdose, illness from contaminants, or death. Multiple drug use involving heroin is common and results in many emergency-room visits. For example speedballing, the use of heroin with cocaine intravenously, moderates the expected post-cocaine crash. Instances of overdose increased among the growing group of middle-class users that emerged in the 1990s as a potent powdered heroin became available. Since 2002, heroin use has increased significantly, especially among persons dependent on opioid painkillers, in part because heroin is cheaper and does not require a prescription.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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