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Chemical Warfare

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Heroin-junk, smack, horse-is a semi-synthetic derivative of morphine, which in turn comes from opium. Heroin is a white, odorless, chrystaline powder which dissolves in water. It is two or three times more powerful than morphine. Four micrograms (mg) of heroin equal in effect about 10 mg. of morphine. The results are the same: relief of anxiety and tension, euphoria, drowsiness, and sedation.

Heroin has been illegal in the U.S. since 1924 but illicit traffic has always been high. The reason heroin has been brought in and used much more than morphine is that it is much easier to smuggle. It is more concentrated than morphine and comes in a powder instead of a brick.

Sniffing, skin popping (injection into skin tissue or muscle), and then mainlining (injection into a vein) is the common progression to getting hooked on heroin. Skin popping for a long time usually results in sores and boils and often tetanus. Older addicts revert to skin popping after their veins are "used up"-too weak to receive more injections. Mainlining is now common, since it requires less heroin to get high and the "rush" (feeling suddenly really high) is more immediate, with the drug going directly into the blood stream. Shooting a grain (60 mg. or 3 or 4 bags) a day usually means being hooked after about two weeks.

Though there are as many reasons for addiction to heroin as there are addicts, the physical effects of the drug are in part the reason for continued addiction. Heroin alleviates physical pain. It used to be used as a painkiller. The body builds up a tolerance to its effects, so larger and larger dosages are needed to maintain a sense of well-being. If increased dosages are not continued, abdominal pain and other withdrawal symptoms occur. Addiction is accompanied by this physical dependence and a craving similar to that of hunger for food. Avoidance of withdrawal symptoms and the related anxiety is a powerful motive for continuing to take heroin.

Withdrawal symptoms from heroin start within a few hours after the addict 's last dose. They can reach a peak in 24 to 48 hours. The symptoms, often called DT's or cold turkey, are: hot and cold flashes, goosebumps, sweating, tenseness, abdominal cramps, insomnia, increased blood temperature, respiratory rate, and blood pressure, muscle cramps, and dehydration.

Getting off heroin (kicking) causes much suffering: mental alienation and physical pain is what keeps most addicts shooting. Kicking requires lessening the intake of the drug gradually, but more often another drug that is supposed to be less dangerous is substituted for heroin.

Methadone is a synthetic drug which supposedly can be safely substituted for heroin since you cannot get high on it and it prevents DT's. Experimental programs using methadone to help addicts have usually failed. It causes an addiction both psychically and physically though its withdrawal symptoms are less violent but more prolonged than for either heroin or morphine. Recent tests show methadone to be dangerous to blood marrow, causing excruciating pain in bones if it is used too long.

But methadone is legal. It is in fitting with the American system that such a drug be widely used. Being hooked on methadone is living without pleasure or pain. In an anesthetic society, which is moving toward an absence of all feeling-not just pain- methadone is a logical step.

Thanks to the OLD MOLE.