Heroin or Hell – Addictions and Impacts

English: Old advertisement for Bayer pharmaceu...
English: Old advertisement for Bayer pharmaceuticals, uses pre-1904 company logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
            In the earliest years of our platform here at C&J, our authors focused on several sensitive topics, such as sexual abuse, serial psychology, human rights and yes drugs.  Among those earlier articles are those with titles of “unhealthy obsessions” and in those days we focused on beginner or more common addictions such as alcoholism or marijuana, the latter of which is becoming “legalized” in certain regions, this article will not focus its attention on that issue, but rather one that spiked views briefly and then as it mostly happens, fades into the darkness of unknown or unspoken, with only the shell left behind.  This is in reference to the actor Phillip Hoffman’s death due to illicit drugs, possibly Heroin or seriously narcotic drugs, allegedly with the needle still in place.  Our reader base mentioned several valid points in their own voices about the silent and deadly use of this particular drug and the far reaching impacts it seems to have, this author concurs and even admits that even when I was in my teens, knowing that approaching it or partaking of it meant playing Russian roulette with your life, it became a huge “no no” complete with images of skulls and crossbones.  With truth glasses in hand and moving at a steady pace, we decided to investigate the drug, its impacts and tackle a burning questions inside ourselves, we present to you, Heroin or Hell.

            Pain from injuries, pains from headaches, pains from surgeries all require a degree of relief and in 1898 the Bayer Company started mass production on this promising new drug known commonly as heroin and that it was proving relief beyond morphine or even codeine, but as with any drug, our bodies build up levels of tolerances and soon, regular doses along with seeking “relief” became an addiction level pandemic that sparked an intravenous use outbreak around 1910. Forward 60 years and since 1970 confiscations of this regulated and near banned drug have rose tenfold or more and the opiates with them are taking more and more lives daily, the difference between then and now, the kitchen variety of this drug is “cut” over and over to spread it out and keep up with the unspoken rising demand.  That is just the outline, other events include that when Bayer discovered heroin, by diluting morphine with acetyls, that they could reduce the side effects of morphine and at one point was distributing this new wonder drug to morphine addicts to help them overcome their habits, an effort that would prove more impact, as in being fully harmful rather than helpful.

English: Pre-war Bayer heroin bottle, original...
English: Pre-war Bayer heroin bottle, originally containing 5 grams of Heroin substance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

            Date line 1905, US Congress bans Opium, due to the rising addiction rates and immediate impacts from its growing widespread use.  The Historic list of what opiates and heroin have done are not just a plague upon the United Sates, but as early as 1527 when opiates were being produced into black pills with other ingredients in Europe, they were prescribed as pain killers, roughly 200 years prior to Europe’s interactions, the opiate industry was considered gone from the earth and only spoken in taboo circles.  The Chinese thought that smoking barbiturates such as an opiate was barbaric, even while knowing sea goers and shipmen were doing it.  History shows, drugs at this level are worldwide and that their side effects are as devastating then as now, other than pain relief, what allure, what is it that grabs the person and makes their whole world revolve around the drug.

            Typically in white or brownish powder form and sometimes in a black sticky substance, known as black tar heroin (very popular in Arizona), it mostly is supplied by Southeast and Southwest Asia, Latin America and Mexico.  Research has shown that the drug itself is being “cut” (mixed) with other substances to spread out its use and among those mixing ingredients:  Sugar, Starch, Powdered Milk, Talc, Baking Soda, Caffeine and Cocaine.  In this list alone, three items stand out that are highly addictive for their euphoric effects, Sugar, Caffeine and Cocaine and since caffeine is a common delivery system in most pain relieving drugs and sugar boosts those effects, it only stands to reason that a energy shot along with the euphoria of the drug causing one to “feel good” would be somewhat appealing to an addict, but surely it cannot be the “cut” that is causing the addiction.  The other thought that crossed my mind was “What if a diabetic person is a Heroin addict and their product is cut with Sugar, how that affects them, what treatment options are there, does it make it even more addicting?” I decided to leave that to medical research, for there is a vast data base on that issue alone.

            There have been two major epidemics of heroin use in our country since its inception, the first was shortly after world war two, the other in the late 1960’s and continuing into the Vietnam war, where it is widely believed that since younger soldiers could not legally drink, the drug itself may have been used for that reason during the war.  Aside from coping with the war (PTSD) itself, the drugs destructive path depended upon which unit, region or soldier encountered the need for it so, during the two worst epidemics of our country, we had wars involved, which certainly bring pain and woes, however, was it a quick fix or self medicating that made this drug alluring, was it a psychological driven yet physically addicting drug, we need to dig deeper.  What we know so far, the drug was researched and created by Bayer to be mass produced, we know that it was born from an attempt to lessen both pain and the habitual use of morphine and was derived from morphine, we know that its base is an opiate, who supplies it, what happens to it during distribution and when it became an epidemic or rather when its worst onset was and that the favorite use choice is intravenous.  We have a foundation of knowledge to build upon, perhaps rather than look at the scientific side of how this product came to pass; we should look in the direction of the addiction for the answers.
Black tar heroin
Black tar heroin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


            ”I am trying to stop using heroin.  Well, in fact, I have been trying for several years now.  I have been to prison 17 times and each time I come out, clean, I still go to use and get a ‘habit’ again.  Why do I do this?  The simple answer is that I feel nothing else I have ever experienced compares in the slightest, nothing in my life seems worth stopping for, there is no light at the end of the tunnel, it’s just too hard to stop.  Imagine feeling good about yourself, life seems good too, then when you wake up all of that has changed, life is shit again until you get a bag of gear.”

            This is only an excerpt from an article posted by alcoholism.about.com on one persons post in a room for recovering addicts, known only as “pipster”.  While reading this article (I highly recommend it for all to read in the link section at the bottom of this article), I took note that when taking the medication prescribed (Subutex) to block the effects of heroin, the addict would actually ponder why they had because it meant they had to wait to get the fix they were after and had to endure 16 hours of not having the benefit of the effects even if used.  The pronounced psychological effects are clear, even without our truth glasses, the physical effects and the brains desire to “feel good” are causing the addict angst as they struggle with the addiction that 17 trips to prison, admittedly could not break.  Logical thoughts from myself that rung out from the online article, what environmental influences such as friends, family, career, self or others are supporting the psychological needs, it is certainly understood we all have bad days at work or mishaps that tend to destroy our otherwise smooth day, but where or when do those environments actually embed the trigger that says, “you need a hit now”, we need to dig further and try to understand deeper.

            The YouTube link that is above was posted by ABC news, on two persons, who do not fit the traditional thinking of what a heroin user would look or live like.  It shows real addicts with real lives having real struggling issues.  The lost look in the eyes, the longing to be helped heard in the voices of the addicts and knowing that this problem is growing rapidly, supports our thinking about environments and trying to find when that trip line is snagged that causes us to fall deeper into the grasps.  We saw in the first part of the video, the initial introduction may have been not knowing what drug was being experimented with, again, a “friends” influence and an environment conducive to its use.  If we take a moment to reflect on the circumstances surrounding Mr. Hoffman’s death, as a “Hollywood” celebrity of sorts, most of us would assume his life was rather comfortable, especially after his role in the Hunger Games movies.  Let’s take a moment to look at some of that tragedy.

English: Chasing the Dragon - how heroin is co...
English: Chasing the Dragon - how heroin is commonly smoked off the foil (Simulation using crushed sugar at a HIT org training event). Heroin is commonly mixed or "cut" with powdered paracetamol or caffeine powder as both of these items run at the same temperature as the heroin does (typically brown heroin in the UK and Europe). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
       According to Forbes online, in an article posted February 4, 2014 shortly after Mr. Hoffman’s demise, the question of calling addictions such as his a brain disease and that it may help to avoid other tragedies, does pose a couple of interesting inquisitions such as, is this a brain disease and if so, is it caused by the drug or is the person more subjective to its addictiveness than others due to an underlying condition?   Drug addiction, is the focus in the opening reference in the article derived from David Sheff, he stated Phillip Hoffman was not responsible for his decisions leading up to his death due to the addiction being a brain disease that is progressively degenerative, an interesting perspective and reason for our mental health agencies to get involved.  Among the problems with this theory is that the one dominant “addiction treatment” model belongs to Alcoholics Anonymous, which advocate a twelve step program that talks of nothing about replacing the addiction with treatment facilities or support staff, it is essentially spiritual based.  Sheff explains in this article that cognitive and behavioral therapy may be much more effective than just a twelve step program alone.  Other suggestions are supplying first responders with a drug that combats overdoses, however, this author must question some of that wisdom as not all overdoses are known immediately and that further research is needed before we lay more responsibility upon those who are already strained to assist. 

            “We don’t know if Hoffman was, upon discharge of treatment, was prescribed medications like Suboxone, which prevents opiate relapse, but it’s unlikely because most treatment programs eschew them.  If he had been (and if he took them as prescribed), it’s almost certain that he’d be alive today. Another medication that may have saved his life is Naloxone, a drug that reverses an overdose.  All opiate addicts, as well as police and other first responders, should have access to this drug.” David Sheff

            It is important to note that the drug buprenorphine, a drug used for opioid treatment was found in the home of Mr. Hoffman, it is no secret that several arrests have been made in connection with his death, but is that the solution in the war on drugs and addictions, to continuously incarcerate and divert in the hopes of winning against physical and psychological effects of a very dangerous drug, looking at the three persons in this article, would an arrest help or should we agree with Sheff and his interpretation where a cognitive therapy is the answer to curing and breaking the cycles within, awareness of this level should not be left out in the cold to only be brought up when “celebrities” pass away, this should be done regularly.  I myself have seen an increase on anti-smoking ads and the adverse health effects, however that industry can be regulated easily, the heroin industry, ran in the shadows of society not so easily.  What kind of true hell does this and other drugs bring upon our society besides crime, the answer simply is destruction of family and society and as we can see, no one, even those seemingly “okay” are exempt from its wears and aggressive style of almost instantly becoming needed, or more correctly as was stated by our addict pipster, there is no other feeling in the world like it.  With the facts in hand about the addictive drug’s birth, the effects it has on those addicted to it and knowing that environmental influences do play a role, which can include parent’s turning a blind eye, we know that getting off the drug is crucial, staying clean is a lifetime battle.  In short, we know that once it was distributed and the harmful effects known, our world has been battling the after effects continuously, the struggles aren’t just in use, they are also in trying to get clean.

Puppies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

            Although withdrawal times vary from user to user (typically symptoms show up within 12 hours) those who seek out the drug’s euphoric effects will likely have a very hard time not relapsing, if not monitored and treated appropriately, this likely due to some of the many withdrawal avenues and symptoms that accompany it.  Referencing our person, pipster, who states that the euphoria of it is nothing like anything else in the world, user’s can expect to encounter some of these typical symptoms of stopping the drug’s use:  Cravings for the drug (common to all addicts), mood changes that include depression, body aches and pains usually in the back region as the drug is a pain inhibitor so naturally once the blocker is removed, the body will respond with phantom and non phantom pains, excessive sweating or tears and including a runny nose, loose or frequent stools, stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, fever, restlessness and insomnia and all of these are possible.  Now, let’s use our truth glasses and a set of justice scales, on one side, we have a user who has been using the drug, their feelings of euphoria and feeling good and at the time life is good.

            On the other side of the scales, any five symptoms mentioned from withdrawal and the same user, who is trying to get clean, has been in rehabilitation for a week and receiving only medications such as what was mentioned earlier, Subutex.  Looking at those scales and trying to assume the actual conscious of the user, the brain, the body and deductive reasoning of the user, ponder a moment or rather put yourself in those eyes.  Logic shows the addict would rather avoid the nasty items and would love to feel good (a battle of brain vs. body), logic tells the addict to not even get started but again, in this scenario the addict cannot see that view because of the blocker or influences the drug has caused upon them, which means that, along with treating the person AND the addiction, we as professionals of criminology and mental health must focus on a new plan, a new approach and rather than just look at the notes from our research, look at the entire person, the entire picture and maybe even compare it to some of our own decisions of addiction based items like cigarettes or even sugars.        

            This whole scenario, from the birth of the drug, its uses and applications, the addicts, the avenues and faces of those users show far reaching impacts, that include family, friends, employers, health care professionals (in treating them), first responders, law enforcement, the judicial system and more.  Our research shows that Heroin rides a fine line of both Heaven and Hell, that is once the user either snorts, smokes or injects the drug, the feelings of heaven begin but the path to hell has as well.  A study conducted in 2007 showed the brains; of addicts who had been using methadone or heroin had the same damage as Alzheimer’s patients and that debilitating disease has its own repercussions.  In rehabilitation, one is assisted in achieving sobriety through removal of person from that environment and educating them along with counseling, going from there, those same persons are generally referred to programs, such as narcotics anonymous or other similar support programs and according to Mr. Sheff, only a handful receive actual medications for treatment and with the pending hell coming, our truth glasses suggest so much more is warranted and needed.

            In conclusion, several items could be reviewed and mistakes pointed out, such as not enough review of the drug itself upon birth, why we didn’t ban it when we had the chance, why if we know where it’s coming from we don’t do more and so many more questions and logical deductions.  We have a vast knowledge base, including the science to know which chemicals trigger the addiction and while this author is all for effective pain relief, I am also for effective research and that should include a 10 year plan on every narcotic in use that includes a full comprehensive review that should be available to all doctors, not just those in medical fields.  With so much evidence of what happens to persons, including those who are seemingly okay, we must conclude on the side of Hell, as no drug, no item, nothing on earth can compare to the total destructiveness of the drug known as Heroin.  If you know someone who is an addict, get those persons help and don’t delay it, take no excuse for not doing it and bring in all the support you can, as with this drug, the battle to overcome it will take more than medications, it will literally take a village.


American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR Fourth Edition (Text Revision). American Psychiatric Association. 2000

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