The same poppy plant that blooms with the fragrant red flowers often depicted in beautiful paintings, as well as produces poppy seeds to top breads and bagels, also makes the substances in heroin, one of the world’s most highly addictive opiate drugs.
Heroin is derived from morphine, a naturally occurring substance that can be extracted from the seedpods of some varieties of poppy plants.
Heroin goes by the chemical name diacetylmorphine, and it’s the fastest-acting of the opiate drugs. Whether it’s injected, smoked or snorted, heroin enters the brain quickly and can cause a range of physical and psychological effects.
“The United States is currently in the midst of a heroin epidemic,” said Dr. Daniel Ciccarone, who has done research on heroin and is a professor of family and community medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. The country has experienced heroin epidemics before, but in this latest one, a large set of heroin users are people who have previously abused prescription opioids, he said.
These new users are getting hooked on heroin because it is cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription pain relievers such as OxyContin and Vicodin.
But new users bring old problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013. In fact, heroin claimed the lives of more than 8,200 Americans in 2013.
Here are 10 interesting facts about this dangerous illegal drug. Reading them may give people good reason to avoid trying heroin in the first place.