In 1995, heroin was involved in nearly fourteen percent of all drug-related emergency room visits across the country – over seventy-two thousand admissions. Heroin is arguably one of the most addictive and dangerous drug substances currently available, with some individuals reporting that they suffered from addiction after just one hit of heroin. While heroin, and indeed opiate drugs in general, are not new to the drug market, there has been an epidemic-like increase in heroin use over the past few years, including among many young individuals who are smoking and snorting heroin. It is suspected that an increase in the purity of heroin has made it somewhat “safer” to smoke and snort this substance, and these methods of ingestion prevent many of the problems, like AIDS, that can occur through injecting heroin. What Is Heroin? Heroin is a narcotic drug derived from the seedpod of the opium poppy plant. Heroin was initially derived from morphine, and intended as a less addictive substitute for morphine to help morphine addicts withdraw from the drug. However, heroin quickly became recognized as a far more potent, addictive and dangerous drug than morphine. Heroin is primarily produced in Mexico and Asia, and though it is an illegal substance in the United States, it is yet available through drug dealers in cities across the nation. In order to stretch heroin farther and increase profits from heroin sales, street heroin is often “cut” with a variety of other drug substances, which reduces its purity and increases its dangerousness. An individual who has become tolerant of and dependent upon heroin may take a hit of impure street heroin and experience a fatal overdose as a result of the impurities contained in that particular batch of heroin. Like other opiate drugs, heroin binds with opiate receptors in the brain and central nervous system, causing the individual to experience pain relief and an intense euphoric rush. This initial euphoric rush is usually brief, and is followed by several hours of relaxation. Unfortunately, heroin can depress the body’s normal respiration rate, and because many heroin users go through alternating periods of wakefulness and drowsiness, heroin-caused depressed respiration can result in fatalities. In some cases, a heroin abuser or addict desires to be free from this drug substance, but most heroin abusers and addicts are afraid of coming off this drug due to painful withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, sweating, diarrhea, yawning, fever and insomnia. The Average Heroin User Much like any other drug use, heroin use normally begins when the individual is faced with some challenge or difficulty in their life for which they have no other solution. Because of this fact, and the fact that heroin can be found in cities across the nation, literally any individual could potentially turn to heroin use. However, according to the 1995-1996 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, there are some basics in common among average heroin users: ● 67% of heroin users were male. ● 22% of heroin users were between the ages of twelve and seventeen years old, and 21% of heroin users were thirty-five years old or older. ● 69% of heroin users were white, 21% of heroin users were black and 9% of heroin users were hispanic. ● 39% of heroin users lived in large cities. ● 15% of heroin users were college students between the ages of seventeen and twenty- two years old. ● 41% of adult heroin users had not graduated from high school. ● 33% of adult heroin users had full-time jobs. This does not mean, of course, that all young, white males who live in large cities will fall into heroin use, abuse and addiction, but the fact is that a plan of action that addresses these common characteristics among heroin users may help to halt and reverse a statistic that is quickly destroying the lives of individuals across the United States.