Heroin – Live Well Centre

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Heroin is also known as brown, gear, smack, H, or diamorphine, as well as other names.

Heroin is made from morphine. Morphine is extracted from the opium poppy, so this kind of drug is called an opiate. Opiates are often used as painkillers.

Heroin can be smoked, snorted, or injected (which is very dangerous). It can make you feel happy, relaxed, euphoric, or sleepy.

Heroin use accounts for the highest amount of drug-related deaths in Middlesbrough, and half of all drug-related deaths in the UK.

Short term harms

Heroin decreases the rate of breathing (respiratory depression) which can lead to overdose and death. Other short term harms include impaired brain function and drowsiness. Using heroin can quickly lead to addiction.

It’s impossible to know exactly what’s in drugs bought on the street. Heroin contains many impurities which can cause issues like infections once they’re in your body.

Injecting heroin can also cause problems, including infections in the heart, blood clots, and infections at the injection site.

Long term harms

Long term injecting can lead to deep vein thrombosis (DVT). If this is left untreated, it can lead to amputation.

Some people who are addicted to heroin will turn to crime to get money to buy drugs.

The stigma of using heroin can lead to users feeling marginalised and cast out from their supportive social groups. This can lead to them becoming involved with people who are in a similar situation of using drugs and committing crime to pay for drugs.

Keeping safe

With illegal drugs, the best way of keeping safe is to stop using them altogether. But we know that right now this could feel like an unachievable goal.

Any change is a good change, so why not start small and cut down gradually? For example, if you’re using every weekend, start by having one drug-free weekend every month. Then try limiting yourself to one weekend every month where you use, and then eventually stopping completely.

If you’re out, look out for your friends, and talk to them about what you’ll do if something goes wrong. If someone wants to go home, be a good mate and support them, don’t encourage them to stay out, and help them get home.

Watch out for overdoses. If someone is sweaty and hot to the touch, panicking, and complaining of chest pains, call 999. Make sure there’s nothing around which can hurt them, stay with them until help arrives, and tell the paramedics what they’ve taken. You will not get in trouble – the most important thing is that the paramedics know what’s wrong.

Naloxone is a drug which can reverse the effects of an opiate overdose. It can be administered by injection or through the nose. You need a small amount of training to use naloxone. If you’re around people who use opiates, it’s vital that you all carry one or more, as you have a higher chance of being near a person who needs it. You can get your naloxone from Recovery Connections.

Supporting someone else

If you’re worried about a loved one or friend, check out the information in the supporting someone else section.

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