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Heroin belongs to a group of drugs called opiates. These are strong pain-killers and highly addictive. They include: heroin, morphine, opium and pethidine.

Heroin is manufactured from morphine or codeine by a chemical process. It is stronger than morphine.

Slang Names
Horse, smack, stuff, dragon, H, and junk are the most common terms used for heroin in Australia at present. They vary, however, from country to country and city to city.

Forms and Appearance
In its pure form, heroin is a pure white, fine grained powder. On the street, it is coarser, and varies from pinkish cream to dark brown in colour.

Medical and Other Uses
Until early this century, heroin was used in North America as a powerful analgesic. (An analgesic is a drug which can lessen pain without causing unconsciousness.) However, it has been completely replaced by other drugs because people become highly dependent on it very quickly.

Combination Products
Heroin is sometimes found on the street in combination with: amphetamines (‘bombitas’); cocaine (‘dynamite’, ‘speedball’, ‘whizbang’); or cocaine and amphetamines (‘zoom’).

Methods of Use
Heroin is most commonly injected or smoked. It can also be sniffed into the nose or taken orally by dabbing it on to a wet finger, but these methods are rare.

Effects of Use on:
Relationships

Illegal use of any drugs usually leads to problems with family and friends. They often find it difficult to understand someone else’s addiction and their changes in mood and behaviour. Legal and financial problems, cheating and lying, family fights, stealing, anxiety, paranoia and fear all add to the strain on relationships. It can be especially hard for family and friends to keep helping someone who is dependent on drugs.

Work
Once a person becomes dependent on heroin, holding down a job can be very difficult. It can seem more important to get the drugs they need than to go to work, or to be efficient or reliable when they do. Employers have the right to sack a person caught using drugs at work or convicted of a drug charge. Once a person has a criminal record, getting another job can also be very difficult.

Health
Most of the damaging effects of illegal use of intravenous drugs like heroin occur because of:

  • the way the drug is used, i.e. by injection;
  • the other substances which are mixed with street drugs;
  • poor hygiene and nutrition;
  • the street lifestyle;
  • infections or diseases passed from one drug user to another.

These health problems include:

  • hepatitis,
  • ulcers,
  • abscesses,
  • loss of sex drive,
  • tetanus,
  • infertility,
  • pneumonia,
  • malnutrition,
  • bronchitis,
  • tooth decay,
  • collapsed veins,
  • overdose,
  • brain damage,
  • AIDS.
  • Motor Skills

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