Heroin has a reputation as one of the most addictive drugs out there, but what are its effects and what are the risks of taking it?

Heroin is a painkilling drug made from morphine, which is derived from the opium poppy. Synthetic substitutes such as methadone are sometimes used as a substitute. Heroin is usually sold in the form of a brownish-white powder which users snort, smoke or prepare for injection.

What are the effects of heroin?

-In small doses, heroin gives users a profound sense of warmth and wellbeing.
-Some first time users may experience nausea or vomiting, especially after injecting.
-Larger doses can lead to drowsiness.

What are the risks of taking heroin?

-Heroin is a very addictive drug and many users may find their habit spirals out of control.
-Tolerance often develops, meaning the user needs more and more heroin to get the same effect.
-Many users who start out smoking heroin turn to injecting for a more intense hit.
-Sharing needles when injecting heroin leaves users at risk of dangerous infections like HIV, hepatitis and gangrene.
-Users trying to kick the habit may experience a period of diarrhoea, insomnia, vomiting, hot and cold sweats, and cramps.
-While many people give up heroin successfully, mentally it can take years to be free.

The law and heroin:

Heroin, morphine, opium, methadone, dipapanone, and pethidine are all Class A drugs: possession could lead to up to seven years in prison. Codeine and dihydrocodeine (DF 118) are Class B drugs, but both drugs become Class As when prepared for injection.

Slang terms for heroin:

Smack, skag, H, horse, junk, brown, gear and China white.

Other heroin-related terms:

Chasing the dragon: to take heroin by smoking it.
Cold turkey: to abruptly stop using heroin and go into withdrawal.
Poor man's speedball: a mixture of heroin and amphetamines.
Speedball: a mixture of heroin and cocaine.
Ten bag/ ten spot: a bag of heroin

If you're planning on taking heroin:

As a rule, never share needles. Sharing equipment just isn't worth the risk. Clean works are available free from local needle exchanges and some pharmacies.