The promise of heroin

Andrew Tyler describes the attraction of heroin, from p275 of Street Drugs (ISBN 0340609753).

The book is considered one of the best guides to the culture, markets and effects of society’s common illicit drugs and is widely read by professionals who deal with drug users.

So what is this strange romance with heroin? Why, when people discuss it, do they leave their shoes and talk in symbols and metaphor? The heroin experience, for those who don’t let the drug run away with them, is warm, woozy, and carefree. Nothing matters any more in their beautiful bubble. For everyday users who have lost control, the experience is ultimately a mediocre one. The drug does not open doors to other worlds (like LSD) but closes them. It stupefies and kills feeling.

Perhaps the key to understanding heroin is to recognise that, for most of these compulsive users, it serves as an antidote to a wretched existence – lives that might be full of pain, might be too complicated to manage, or – conversely – empty of any meaning whatsoever. Heroin promises neutrality. It promises nothing.

If you’re not familiar with the pharmacology of heroin, you may be interested to know that heroin itself is largely inactive as a drug.

Heroin is a type of prodrug – meaning that it only becomes active after it is absorbed and metabolised.

The heroin molecule gets converted into morphine, which binds to the opioid receptors in the brain to have the desired effect.

Ironically, in it’s early days, heroin was marketed as a non-addictive treatment for morphine addiction.

Link to Wikipedia page on heroin.

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