What is it like to try heroin

Heroin use is life-threatening. In 2012, almost every second drug death in Germany was a junkie. Overdoses, illnesses and precarious living conditions threaten consumers. An overview.

What is heroin made of?

Heroin belongs to the group of substances called opiates. It is obtained from opium poppies grown from Turkey to Southeast Asia. It is closely related to pain relievers like morphine. The active ingredient content of the heroin fluctuates between 10 and 95 percent. Often dangerous substances such as the poisonous strychnine are mixed in.

What is the effect of the drug?

Heroin has a calming, relaxing and pain-relieving effect. With simultaneous euphoria, it dampens mental activity. Negative sensations such as fear, displeasure, emptiness, problems and burdens are hidden. Consumers feel happy and satisfied. However, the pleasant effect only lasts a few minutes. After that, the junkies get sleepy for several hours. When the effects are over, the body immediately craves more. Heroin users in Germany mostly use the syringe. The brownish crystalline powder can also be smoked or snorted.

What are the consequences of using heroin?

The consumption is devastating. Due to the unfavorable living conditions, contamination of the drug and the needles, long-term users must expect physical consequences such as liver damage, stomach and intestinal disorders, tooth decay and tooth loss, as well as diseases of the lungs. Injections can cause infections such as HIV and hepatitis. Abscesses and inflammation of lymphatic vessels often form at the puncture sites. Vein damage and heart inflammation are not uncommon. In men, heroin affects potency and in women, it affects menstruation. Mentally there are concentration and learning difficulties. The addiction reduces the mental capacity and memory, leads to introversion and loss of appetite, makes aimless, disinterested and depressed.

How strong is the addiction?

Heroin quickly leads to physical and psychological dependence. The physical withdrawal symptoms are severe: sweating, freezing, tremors, severe pain in the limbs, sleep disorders and even circulatory collapse. Addicts try to avoid withdrawal at all costs. Since the addiction exceeds the financial means of most addicts, many of them go into poverty. "I was raped, beaten, mugged, robbed, arrested, homeless, sick and desperate. I knew that no one could endure such a lifestyle for long ... I thought that dying was definitely better than being a junkie" , a heroin addict recalls the time she was hanging on the needle.

Why are so many junkies dying?

With no other drug, the risk of a fatal trip is as high as with heroin. Because the margin between tolerance and overdose is very small. A "shot" of heroin usually contains ten milligrams of the powder. For someone who is not used to it, even five milligrams can be fatal. But even users with drug experience can die from an overdose if they increase the amount of the drug too quickly due to increasing withdrawal symptoms. It is particularly dangerous when heroin is mixed with cocaine to form a so-called speedball. Both substances can increase their effects.

(Sources: German headquarters for addiction issues, Federal Center for Health Education, drug and addiction reports of the federal government)