Hungry for heroin information

Originally Published: June 6, 1997 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: March 24, 2014
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Dear Alice,

I'm thinking about trying heroin. However, this prospect makes me nervous because of all the media reports of people becoming so quickly addicted to it, wasting away, and even dying from overdoses. Any advice?

—Gathering info

Dear Gathering info,

Good alias... and smart strategy of getting informed before you try anything, especially a highly-addictive drug.

Heroin is a narcotic derivative of the painkiller morphine. Heroin is very powerful and fast-acting, producing a high that may create a pleasant sick feeling (nausea) and reduced pain. As such it is highly addictive, both physically and psychologically. Some users report that they became addicted after only one snort or needle stick.

Because of its highly addictive nature, it is extremely difficult to stop using heroin. Heroin has ruined or ended the lives of actors, rock stars, business execs, homemakers, and college students alike — sometimes from ignorance-induced overdose, and other times from mixtures with other drugs. The latter cause is often unknown to users who buy their drugs from unfamiliar or dishonest sources.

To be fair, there are heroin users who remain productive, maintaining their grades, work responsibilities, and social and family affairs. "Managing" heroin use, however, can become impossible as a constant craving for this very powerful drug becomes stronger and more difficult to resist. Additionally, heroin is an expensive drug and can devastate an addict financially.

Before you try heroin, think about the reasons you want to experiment. Are you trying to mentally escape from something? Are you trying to relieve stress? Alter your reality? Are you just curious? If your reasons for trying heroin have to do with wanting to change something about your life, or feel something different, you may want to consider talking with a mental health professional about these feelings, and figuring out a non-addictive way of dealing with them. Columbia students can make an appointment with Counseling and Psychological Services (Morningside) or the Mental Health Service (CUMC). If you're not at Columbia,  you can check out Mental Health America's resources on finding a therapist in your area or contact your primary health care provider for a referral. You might also consider learning more about natural highs, all of which are cheaper than heroin, not to mention legal!

If you're being pressured to try heroin by friends or peers, consider whether this is something you really want to do. If saying no is difficult right now, try delaying until you are ready to make a decision that's best for your health.

Keep pondering and gathering,

Alice