Heroin and New Allies in the Fight Against the OxyContin Epidemic

Heroin and New Allies in the Fight Against the OxyContin Epidemic

Heroin is one of the best known drugs of abuse. When you mention heroin, most people think of a person who hasn't bathed or combed their hair in weeks lying on a dirty mattress with a needle stuck in their arm. In this article we are going to look at what heroin is, the way it is sold, the health problems, the withdrawal problems and the competition from OxyContin—legal heroin.


Heroin is processed from morphine which is derived from the opium poppy, the same opium poppy from which many of the legal prescription narcotics are derived. Heroin was first produced from morphine in a lab in Britain in 1874. It remained a scientific curiosity until it was discovered by the Bayer pharmaceutical company in Germany. In 1898, Bayer began promoting heroin as a non-addictive painkiller and cough medicine for children and as a cure for morphine addiction. With the same lack of concern for honesty shown by Purdue Pharma, Eli Lilly and other drug companies today, Bayer deliberately concealed that when the liver metabolized the heroin, the active ingredient remaining was morphine—a drug know to be highly addictive. They saw nothing wrong with giving highly addictive drugs to children—the same attitude shared by today's drug companies as they seek to give highly dangerous psychotropic drugs to children. Until 1914, heroin was readily available. This was changed by the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act which was passed in 1914 to control the sale and distribution of heroin. In a way similar to the approach some “pain management” doctors take today, many doctors prescribed heroin indiscriminately and this allowed many addicts to continue to use heroin. It was not until 1924 that the sale, importation and manufacture of heroin was banned in the United States.


When refined, commercial heroin is usually a white powder with a bitter taste. Pure heroin is rarely sold on the streets. Most heroin sold on the street is a powder varying in color from white to dark brown. The differences in color primarily relate to the presence of additives that “cut” or dilute the purity of the heroin (as explained below). Some heroin, particularly heroin from Mexico, actually looks more like tar and is called “black tar” heroin. On the street, heroin is called "H," "smack," "skag," and "junk."


Like other prescription drug narcotics, once heroin gets into the bloodstream:

  • It is carried to the brain and crosses the blood-brain barrier (a barrier that selectively determines what chemicals are allowed to reach the brain).
  • Once across the blood-brain barrier, heroin, which becomes morphine in the liver, activates the endorphin receptors to release more endorphins.
  • The increased endorphins, the body's natural pain medicine, creates a feeling of comfort and well-being and for many—a sense of euphoria.


The most common methods of heroin use are:


Heroin, like all illegal drugs, is obtained from criminals who import it from other criminals who obtain it from the following sources:

  • An estimated 90 percent of the world's opium production occurs in Afghanistan;
  • Although Mexico and Colombia opium production accounts for less than four percent of the world's total production, they supply most of the heroin to the United States;
  • Mexican growers and refiners supply an estimated 30 to 40 percent of the U.S. heroin market, primarily to dealers west of the Mississippi River;
  • Colombia supplies heroin to dealers in most of the remainder of the states east of the Mississippi.


Like other central nervous system depressants, even short-term heroin use produces:

  • Clouding and slowing of mental functions;
  • Slowed breathing which may lead to respiratory failure.
However, long-term heroin use can produce:
  • Collapsed veins;
  • Infection of the heart lining and valves;
  • Abscesses;
  • Liver disease;
  • Pulmonary complications--including various types of pneumonia;
  • Depletion of essential nutrients, amino acids and minerals;
  • Dehydration of the body;
  • AIDS;
  • Hepatitis C (70–80% of the new hepatitis C infections are among injection drug users.)


As the body's health is more and more impaired by heroin use, the body becomes more and more weakened. This can lead to a higher likelihood of a heroin overdose. The symptoms of heroin overdose are:

  • Pinpoint size pupils;
  • Bluish skin;
  • Bluish fingernails;
  • Looseness of the muscles;
  • Clammy and cold skin;
  • Lowered blood pressure and heart rate;
  • Coma;
  • Severe respiratory distress;
  • Seizures
  • Death

Sometimes, heroin overdose was primarily caused by the weakened physical condition of the person getting too much heroin. Other times, heroin overdoses are caused by someone who was used to 40% pure heroin getting 90% heroin on the street. While using the same amount of 40% pure heroin would not cause an overdose, using the same amount of heroin that was twice as strong can lead to an overdose.


Withdrawal from heroin is similar to withdrawal from other narcotics like OxyContin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, Vicodin and Percocet. Because the use of heroin has caused the body to rely on the drug to produce endorphins, when you stop using heroin, the body is making insufficient endorphins to block the pain signals from the brain. Without endorphins, everything that you do, even breathing, would be painful. This sudden stop of endorphin production creates what has been described as the worst flu you ever had, only ten times worse. Some of the symptoms of heroin withdrawal are:

  • Anxiety
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Sweating
  • Lacrimation (tearing or crying)
  • Yawning
  • Rhinorrhea (runny nose)
  • Piloerection (goosebumps)
  • Restlessness
  • Anorexia (eating disorder where people try to starve themselves)
  • Irritability
  • Dilated pupils (larger than normal pupils)
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Tachycardia (rapid heartbeat)
  • Hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure)
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscle and bone pain


Heroin dealers respond to the law of supply and demand, Heroin is almost always “cut” or diluted with other substances. Some of these substances added to the heroin powder are harmless, like sugar or starch, but other additives can be very toxic and can create clots in the blood vessels which can lead to serious infections or even death. Because the heroin dealer doesn't want to kill all of his customers, he tries to use only safe fillers, but this was the only way that the dealer could make a profit. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, most of the heroin sold in the 1970's and 1980's was only between 10% and 20% pure heroin. For example if the dealer purchases a gram of heroin for $100 and can dilute or cut it to only 20% heroin and 80% additives, and sell each diluted gram for $100, they will have five grams of heroin to sell at $100 per gram. This means that they make $500 or a profit of $400. The purity of the heroin on the street has radically changed. The White House Prescription Drug Report found that the purity of most of the heroin now being sold is over 90%. This means that the profits to the dealers have been reduced by over 70%. One gram of pure heroin will now only produce slightly over one gram of heroin to sell on the street. This means that all the criminals on the supply chain are making much less money. What has made these criminals improve the purity of their product and actually sell it for much less? The answer is simple—competition from OxyContin--legal heroin. Why is this? OxyContin is:

  • Legal;
  • Prescribed like candy for any type of pain by doctors;
  • Prescribed without any medical reason by drug-dealing doctors;
  • Obtained from drug stores at a price far less than heroin;
  • Often much of the OxyContin prescribed is partially or fully paid for by insurance;
  • Safer quality because it was not “cut”;
  • Is easily available on the street;
  • Acts the same as heroin in the body.

At Novus Medical Detox Center, we find that many of our patients were users of both heroin and OxyContin. If they cannot get OxyContin, they use heroin. If they are not able to get OxyContin from a compliant doctor, then they purchase heroin because it is actually almost as pure and is much cheaper than OxyContin. Our patients confirm the findings in the White House Prescription Drug Report about the price of heroin and OxyContin if you have to buy it on the street. On the street, OxyContin can go for between $.80 and $1.00 a milligram. To get the same high, it might cost $200 to purchase the needed amount of OxyContin but only $100 to purchase the needed amount of heroin.


Because of the pain and their greatly reduced health, most heroin users will more comfortably and safely withdraw from heroin at a facility like Novus Medical Detox Center. Not only will their withdrawal symptoms and heroin detox be addressed in a real medical detox, they will also receive intravenous treatments to replenish the depleted nutrients, amino acids and minerals as well as get the person hydrated enough to make the withdrawal more comfortable. Once withdrawn from heroin, the next step is to go into a rehabilitation program that will help the person really understand the reasons why they became addicted to heroin or other narcotics and be free from all drugs.


There is a lie still being perpetrated that a heroin user who starts using methadone is on his or her way to a cure. This is just not true. At Novus Medical Detox Center, we regularly help people who believed this lie to escape from the trap of methadone. These people believed that they were going to gradually be off all drugs but found it was a painful lie. Methadone is more addictive than heroin and is much more difficult to withdraw from. The real solution is to be drug-free. If you want to see what the life around a methadone clinic is, watch the video at https://novusdetox.com/methadone-addiction-and-treatment.php. If you want to read about how methadone affects lives, read The Methadone Prison.)


If heroin is the most common drug you associate with “addicts”, it is rapidly losing that distinction. We are now beset by Radio Medicine doctors who prescribe prescription narcotics, like OxyContin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, Vicodin and Percocet, on any pretext and by drug-dealing doctors who only want to receive a fee and need no excuse to prescribe narcotics. These narcotics are killing our children, parents, brothers, sisters and friends. They are destroying the lives of tens of thousands and adversely affecting hundreds of thousands more. We are pushing more into heroin as a cheaper alternative. At Novus Medical Detox Center, we help people more comfortably and safely detox from heroin, OxyContin, oxycodone, Vicodin, hydrocodone, Percocet, Xanax, Paxil, Zoloft and other psychotropic drugs. Please let us know if we can help someone you know. NOTE: This information is provided for general educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute (i) medical advice or counseling, (ii) the practice of medicine, health care diagnosis or treatment, or (iii) the creation of a physician patient or clinical relationship. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or that this information may be useful to you or others, please consult with your health care provider before applying any information from our articles to your personal situation or to the personal situation of others. FAIR USE NOTICE: This may contain copyrighted (C) material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

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