There is a heroin epidemic in America, and New Castle County is on the front lines. Here are some valuable resources that will help you stay informed, start a conversation and even seek treatment for you or someone you know.

There are several treatment options including behavioral therapies and medications that are effective at helping patients stop using heroin and return to stable and productive lives.

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  • Heroin is an opiate processed from morphine taken from the poppy plant. It is black and sticky and can be snorted, smoked, ingested orally or injected. In its purest form, heroin is a fine white powder. More often it is found to be rose gray, brown or black in color. The coloring comes from additives, which have been used to dilute it. These can include sugar, caffeine or other substances.
  • Heroin is also called: Dragon, Dope, H, Big H, White, White Lady, China White, Mexican Mud, Horse, Scag, Black Tar, Brown Crystal, Brown Sugar, Nod, Chiba, Chiva, Tar, Snowball, Smack, Junk, Black Pearl
  • In 2011, 4.2 million Americans had used heroin at least once.
  • No two users are alike. Many of heroin’s newest addicts are in their teens or early 20s; many come from middle- or upper-middle-class suburban families.
  • Tolerance to heroin develops with regular use, so after a short time more heroin is needed to produce the same level of intensity. This results in addiction.
  • Heroin craving can persist years after drug use stops, and can be triggered by exposure to stress or people, places, and things associated with drug use.
  • Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose and can last up to a week. Withdrawal can be as long as a few months after stopping the drug. Sudden withdrawal by heavily dependent users can be fatal.

For many users, the “gateway” drug to heroin use is the prescription narcotic OxyContin and its key ingredient, oxycodone. In communities where heroin is now a growing problem, the abuse of OxyContin (or “oxy”) was prevalent months and years ago. The chemical effect on your body is so similar to heroin, for addicts and abusers, heroin and oxy are almost interchangeable.

One big difference, however, is price. Unlike OxyContin, which can cost $80 for an 80-milligram pill, you can buy a gram (1,000 milligrams) of heroin for around $100. For addicts, it’s simply a matter of economics.

An added danger is that, unlike OxyContin that is pure and measured, heroin is usually mixed—or cut—with unknown and toxic substances. This is why many people who inject heroin, even the first time, die from an overdose.

This is why heroin is so dangerous.

  1. Learn about your subject. For more information on heroin, you can visit:
  2. Find good times to talk when you will not be interrupted. The best effect will be created if you cover this subject a little at a time.
  3. Explain that children or adults could start using heroin. Explain why these people may start (depression, stress, peer pressure, etc.)
  4. Explain that if they are tempted or they do use drugs, they should come to you immediately for help. Be prepared to help without criticism if they feel safe coming to you.
  5. Go over the effects of heroin and the damage it causes, including physical, mental and financial harm, along with destroying relationships and trust. Invite them to ask questions. Be realistic and don't exaggerate the harm.
  6. Describe the way that peer pressure to use drugs or drink can be very subtle, feeling like nothing more than the desire to join in the fun everyone else seems to having.
  7. Let them know that drug residues are stored in the body, and thus the lingering damage of drug abuse can stay with them for many years. This damage can include effects like cloudy, slow thinking, emotional shutoff, depression, difficulty learning or problem-solving, even lasting personality changes like paranoia or anxiety.
  8. Explain that the abuse of any drug or alcohol can damage or destroy a person's ability to achieve his or her goals, even in one night due to an accident or overdose.
  9. Above all, do your best to make it safe for them to talk to you about their friends using drugs or alcohol, about their own substance abuse or concerns.

The first time it is used, the drug creates a sensation of being high. A person can feel extroverted and able to communicate easily with others and may experience a sensation of heightened sexual prowess—but not for long. Heroin is highly addictive and withdrawal extremely painful. The drug quickly breaks down the immune system, finally leaving one sickly, extremely thin and bony and, ultimately, dead.

  • Slurred speech, slow movements, runny nose/eyes, constricted pupils, increased fatigue/unusual amount of sleeping.
  • Change in friends, decline in grades, neglected hygiene and appearance.
  • Unexplained small foil balls or plastic bags/balloons, capsules, Visine Eye Drops squirt bottle (used for snorting), missing items such as spoons, aluminum foil, checks or cash, or patterns of borrowing money with nothing to show for it.
  • If your child is injecting, his/her drug use has likely progressed. Track marks are a giveaway, but users who inject are typically doing so in hidden places on their bodies.

Heroin abuse can lead to fatal overdose, spontaneous abortion, and infectious diseases like hepatitis and HIV. Chronic users may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, constipation and gastrointestinal cramping, and liver or kidney disease. Pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia, may result from the poor health of the user as well as from heroin’s effects on breathing.

Street heroin often contains toxic contaminants or additives that can clog blood vessels leading to the lungs, liver, kidneys or brain, causing permanent damage to vital organs.

Besides the risk of spontaneous abortion, heroin abuse during pregnancy is also associated with low birth weight, an important risk factor for later delays in development. Additionally, if the mother is regularly abusing the drug, the infant may be born physically dependent on heroin and could suffer from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a drug withdrawal syndrome in infants that requires hospitalization.