Heroin: Affects on Body and Brain

The experiment that I performed for this research project was that I called up five rehabilitation facilities across northern California and asked them if the number of heroin patients that have enrolled into their facility has risen or has gone up significantly in the years from 2000 to 2008. I recorded the data that I had received from the various facilities on a data table and a line graph that showed the rise in the number of heroin patients enrolling into the facilities within two year increments. Each city has a rehab facility that had an increased number of patients growing rapidly every two years.

Heroin was introduced in America in the late 1800’s. It can be seen at the most powerful pain killer. Morphine, a drug related to heroin, is often used by hospitals to treat patients who have sustained massive injury. In this research report, I will be telling you about the origin of heroin and where it comes from, its effects on the brain and body, and rehabilitation and treatment for heroin use and addiction. Heroin is the most widely abused opiate, which is a class of drug derived from the poppy plant. Although some opiates are prescribed to treat pain, heroin has no medical use.

It comes from places that include China, Mexico, and the mountains that border Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, and such areas that are poppy rich. Opium poppies grow best in warm, dry climates. Heroin is made when the sap from a poppy plant is collected by a farmer and sold to a merchant or broker, who then takes it to a morphine refinery. There it is turned into morphine base and then reacted with chemicals used in the making of aspirin. Most black market heroin is made from contaminants left in a morphine factory. Heroin is most often found as a powder.

In its purest form, diamorphine, this powder is white (hence the nickname, “China White. ” This type of heroin is most common in the eastern portion of the United States. However, the heroin most commonly used is brown, called “Mexican Brown. ” The reason “Mexican Brown” is the most commonly used heroin on the west coast of the United States is because it comes from Mexico. It is smuggled into close Border States like Texas and California and distributed to many of the western states. “Mexican Mud” or “Black Tar” heroin is becoming popular in the U. S. more and more often.

The image to the left shows Mexican Mud Black Tar heroin as packaged and sold in the street. Each balloon prices from about $20-30 and weighs approximately . 10 grams. The different ways heroin can be taken are by injecting, snorting, or smoking. The fastest way heroin gets to the brain is smoking. When it is smoked, the active chemicals in heroin can easily seep into the lung blood and where it can quickly travel to the brain. How does heroin affect the body? That is a common question people may ask.

Heroin is supposed to cause a “rush” of pleasure in the user that is usually followed by several hours of drowsiness. It may also cause nausea, vomiting, or severe itching. Long-term effects include, obviously, addiction, infectious diseases, for example, HIV/AIDS, and Hepatitis B and C, collapsed veins, bacterial infections, abscesses, infection of heart lining and valves, kidney disease and/or failure, and arthritis and other rheumatologic problems. Heroine also affects the pain in many ways, as well. Heroine mimics natural opiates in the brain and binds to opiate receptors, turning off dopamine inhibition.

Many people tend to use heroin for many various reasons: peer pressure, stress, anxiety, etc. The drug is very addictive because it can penetrate the blood-brain barrier quickly. It also produces an effect on parts of the brain which are responsible for creating physical dependence. The brain is led to believe that the drug is a required substance once our body gets used to the presence of it. When the intake of heroin is stopped, the brain then sends out signals to the body and the body will then produce withdrawal symptoms.

Often heroin users go through many withdrawals which have some symptoms that include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, vomiting, and hot and cold flashes. Heroin withdrawal can also lead to death. When heroin users are going through addiction, most are admitted into rehabilitation facilities to help them “kick” their habit. Rehab centers revolve around a structured program that is unique to the type of issue being rehabilitated. The main goal of rehab centers is to support people until they have gotten to a place where they can comfortably and safely return to the community and their homes.

In the case of drug rehabilitation centers, they are supposed to make the patient feel comfortable and protected in their surrounding environment, so they can ignore using and/or relapsing. Most rehab facilities are large in structure and have many accommodations for their various patients, such as: gyms, pools, game rooms, suites, and many other daily activities to keep their patients focused on recovery and getting better and keep their minds off of using drugs and keep them in a state when they do not need to use drugs.

Scientists have created a medication for opioid users called, buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is a semi-synthetic opioid that it used to treat opioid addiction in higher dosages. It is supposed to bind to the same receptors as morphine, but do not produce the same affects. Another medication scientists have created to help treat opioid dependence is referred to as naloxone. It is a shorter-acting opioid receptor blocker, used to treat cases of overdose. This medication is approved for treating heroin addiction but has not been really used because most patients will not take it.

This medication blocks opioids from binding to their receptors and thus prevents an addicted individual from feeling the effects of the drug. The most common drug used to treat opioid addiction is called methadone. Methadone is a drug that has been used for many years. It basically acts the same way buprenorphine, where it binds to the same receptors as opiates do, but do not produce the same addictive affects. If used correctly, morphine is neither addictive nor does it cause sedation. Opinion I learned so many things during this entire experience.

I learned so many things about drugs and addiction that has never known before. I learned that during the 1960’s and 1970’s, heroin use become an epidemic in the United States after many addicted veterans started coming home after the Vietnam War. One of the excuses that the addicted veterans used was that it relieved the stress of the war. Also, 80% of inmates that were in prison during that time period, were incarcerated because of heroin-related (trafficking, possession, and sales) and motivated (robberies, thefts, burglaries, homicides, etc. ) crimes.

During the 1980’s, heroin took a backseat, in regards to crime, to crack cocaine, but it has recently been on the rise. During the ‘80’s, the drug was used and distributed in poor, urban communities, whereas now, the resurfacing of the drug is in the rural, suburban, affluent neighborhoods. This project got more and more interesting as the weeks went by. I’ve learned so much about the topic that I have chosen for this research report and project that I am glad I did end up picking this for myself. It got much easier to get this project done when I found out that I could get help from Ms.

Lanter-Skokan whenever I needed it. The after-school tutoring sessions with my teacher and my classmates helped me with the completion of this project in so many ways. The help and advice I received on my PowerPoint presentation was so beneficial because I ended up having a great presentation that showed all of the hard work I put into this process over the past 3 or 4 weeks. I am especially happy with how all my work turned out and I am quite fond of the way I ended my work this year. This experience was so amazing and I am glad I finally got this project over with and I am ready for next year.

Bibliography

http://alcoholism.about.com/od/heroin/a/effects.-LvN.htm

http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/drug-addiction-brain

http://www.livestrong.com/article/83616-drugs-affect-human-brain

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/heroin/brain/

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