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Heroin was first synthesized in 1874 by an English chemist working at St. Mary's Hospital Medical School, located in London, England. From 1898 through to 1910 heroin was marketed in the United States as a morphine substitute and also as a cough medicine for children. Additionally, the Bayer Company marketed heroin as a cure for morphine addiction before it was discovered that heroin is converted to morphine when metabolized in the liver; this finding became a historical blunder for the company.

Heroin is a very powerful opiate that is among the most addictive substances that is out there. One of the reasons that this opiate it is so highly addictive - and so extremely powerful - is that it acts so quickly. If you inject heroin directly into your blood stream, you can feel the powerful effects of the drug within a matter of seconds. The most popular delivery method of heroin is through the means of injection; heroin can also be smoked in a water standard pipe, mixed in a marijuana joint or regular cigarette, inhaled as smoke through a straw, known as "chasing the dragon," or snorted as a powder via the nose. Heroin addiction affects the user's brain; the drug enters their brain quickly and slows down reaction time and memory.

Drug addiction to heroin poses special problems for those who inject the drug, because of the risks of HIV, hepatitis B and C, and other diseases that commonly are reported to occur from sharing needles. These health problems that are often associated with a heroin addiction can be passed on to sexual partners and newborns. Chronic users of heroin may develop collapsed veins, infections of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, and often times fatal liver disease. Pulmonary complications, including various different types of pneumonia, may result from the poor health condition of the heroin user, as well as from the drug's depressing effects on respiration.

Heroin is also highly dangerous, since it is processed from naturally occurring morphine and because the use of the drug has powerful effects on the body. Heroin use clouds an user's judgment, and causes alternating states of alertness and drowsiness. In addition to the damaging effects of using this highly addictive drug, there is the added danger of street heroin commonly being mixed with additives that do not dissolve. As a result of this, clogging can occur in the blood vessels that lead to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain; this can cause infections in these vital organs.

The most common signs of heroin use can include slurred speech, slow gait, constricted pupils, droopy eyelids, impaired night vision, vomiting, and constipation. When an individual is coming down from heroin and is in need of a fix, they may exhibit watery eyes, muscle cramps, a runny nose, chills, nausea, insomnia, tremors and even panic attacks. Some of the most common signs that are related to a heroin overdose include shallow breathing, pinpoint pupils, clammy skin, and convulsions or coma.