How they affect the body
What illegal drug is the biggest concern in our community? Why?
JR: “In my opinion, heroin is the drug with the biggest concern in our community. This is because it is easy to overdose, causing sudden death. Recently, there has been a sharp increase in heroin overdose. The reason for the sharp increase in heroin use is the reformulation of oxycontin. The makers of oxycontin, a prescription form of synthetic heroin, reformulated the pills, making them impossible to inject or smoke.” People addicted to the prescription drug had no choice but to turn to heroin. Heroin is relatively cheap and easy to obtain at the street level. Because heroin is an illegal black market drug the user has no guarantee of the quality or strength of the dose they are using. This can have deadly effects.
What affect does this drug have on an individual?
JR: “First time users of heroin describe the euphoria as being the best feeling they have ever had in their life. It causes the user to become drowsy, putting them in an almost catatonic state. The street term for this is on the nod.Their pupils become constricted, pulse rate drops. Because of the strong euphoria, some people become addicted after their first use. They will never experience the same high, but will always be in search of it. In street terms, this is referred to as, ‘Chasing the dragon. Over time the addict will no longer get the strong euphoria. They need the drug to just function. They stop taking care of themselves. Personal hygiene goes into decline. Heroin addicts stop eating regularly becoming skinny often looking sucked up in the face. Their skin becomes pale and dark bags forms under their eyes. The drug is literally poisoning their body. Addicts often turn to prostitution to pay for their addiction. When you combine the decline in hygiene and high risk lifestyle and fact that heroin is injected with needles addicts are at high risk to contract diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C.”
How are family and friends affected by an abuser?
JR: “Heroin causes a strong physical addiction. The addict will have to use heroin several times a day in order to prevent going into withdrawals. The drug will control their life; addicts often commit thefts to pay for their addiction, stealing from family, friends, and neighbors. Addicts are constantly lying and quickly lose the trust of their friends and family”
What resources are available for someone with an addiction?
JR: “unfortunately, there are very few resources in S.L.O. county to help people with addictions. Available resources in SLO County are: AA, Narcotics anonymous, drug and alcohol services. And private clinics. Cottage hospital is available in Santa Barbara County for people who can afford residential treatment. The Salvation army has a treatment program that generally required a court referral. Unfortunately, many of the treatment options require the addict to be arrested and enter the court system.” Private treatment is available but often out of reach due to the cost.Some insurance companies will pay for treatment.”
How do the harmful effects of this drug compare to those of other drugs such as cocaine?
JR: “cocaine and heroin have two completely different effects on the body. Heroin is a depressant, and cocaine in a stimulant. Cocaine user becomes excited with an elevated pulse rate, dilated pupils and may stay awake for long periods of time, whereas heroin causes the exact opposite effect. While heroin can be smoked, or taken orally, it is most commonly taken as an injection into the vein. These injection sites can become an infected abscess. I recall one user who had abscesses covering both legs. When you walked into the room, you could smell the rotting flesh. Shortly after, he had to have one leg amputated. Throughout all of this, he continued to use heroin.”