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Heroin: Effects, Symptoms and Impact of Covid-19

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Abstract

This research assignment revolves around the research of a known drug in the drug family. Specifically, this paper will be focused on the drug, Heroin. The description of the drug, the short-term effects, long-term effects signs and symptoms as well the route of entry will be described into vivid detail throughout the paper. The identifying signs of someone on or overdosing on heroin, and the ways on how to control someone with the use of force if they are on heroin will be included. Laws that are applicable to the street drug in the Canadian Criminal Code will for sure be included. How Covid-19 impacted the response from law enforcement and a news article in relation to Heroin will be discussed within the research assignment.

Introduction

Illegal drug use in Canada is an ongoing problem, but it is in every country as well. In specific, the drug known to most, heroin, is still a drug that is used in today’s world. Heroin is a powdered substance that can be injected to the human body in several ways which is highly addictive. Usually, repeat users will need either more grams of heroin or use it frequently within a period of time to continue getting high in which is where the problem lies. Heroin has a long list of symptoms to notice when someone is using it, short-term effects, long-term effects, and other potential effects. Heroin is very easy to overdose on which causes a problem when the user is alone and injecting heroin which can lead to those effects or death. Though you can treat the overdose it doesn’t necessarily mean that the user is going to come out at 100%. They can come out of that hospital with lots of physical/psychological effects, no money, or not succeed at an addiction treatment center. In relation to heroin/opioid/drug use, possession and trafficking there are laws that apply from the Canadian Criminal Code that make the substance illegal. The Criminal Code outlines also an act that protects the person who finds or knows of a heroin user injecting themselves and what to do when this happens when you’re with the user. In this research assignment, there is a news article from November 15, 2020 that directly relates to heroin and talks about the usage of treatment centers. Finally, it is talked about how Covid-19 has impacted the response from law enforcement in relation to drug use/overdose. All topics discussed here will be looked into in-depth throughout the essay and show the brittleness of drug use, especially heroin.

Heroin Description

The description of heroin may be hard to tell when compared to a substance that looks similar. Generally, heroin is a white or brown powdered substance and when it is heated up it forms into a black sticky substance. Heroin is considered an opioid drug and is strictly made from morphine; morphine is a natural seed from a poppy plant. Poppy plants are grown in southeast/west Asia, Mexico, and Columbia. Heroin is a highly addictive drug, in which the user’s body builds a fast tolerance after the first use which causes the user to need more heroin peruse and more frequently.

Route of Entry

Heroin can enter the human body in various ways by the user. The most common ways include being smoked or laced on cannabis to smoke, injected by a needle in a black tar-like substance, and heated on a spoon, it can also be snorted or mixed with crack cocaine in which it is called ‘speed balling’. As described by the National Institute on Drug Abuse “Heroin enters the brain rapidly and binds to opioid receptors on cells located in many areas, especially those involved in feelings of pain and pleasure and in controlling heart rate, sleeping, and breathing”.

Identifying Signs of Heroin Use

How to identify someone on heroin includes slow relaxed breathing that is questionable to the point you think if they are even alive, drowsiness for hours, flushed skin, weight loss if consistently used, slurred speech, and flu-like symptoms. Psychological signs would include clouded thinking, anxiety, mood swings, memory loss, and lack of motivation. During an opioid overdose (heroin in this case) it is crucial to make sure the user stays awake and conscious, cold towels or ice packs to the head will help, as well as constantly walking them around, any movement additionally will help until emergency services arrive. It is important to know CPR in case of breathing fails and you need to take that measure of saving a life or attempt until emergency services arrive. It is very important to stay with them and to closely monitor the user’s breathing rhythm. Make sure to call emergency services, typically an overdose user does not die right away so by seeking medical assistance they are able to typically able to reverse the overdose from products like Naloxone. Everything listed above will hopefully give you time to have control over the heroin substance which could result in you saving a life.

Can a User Overdose on Heroin?

Just like most other drugs heroin users/addicts can overdose on heroin because of the large amounts of morphine in the blood system/nervous system. When used excessively by a user/addict it can produce a threatening reaction or even cause death. When the user overdoses, breathing will slow down to a bare minimum or completely stop which will cause hypoxia. Hypoxia is a “decrease in the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain” and hypoxia can create short/long-term mental issues as well as the nervous system. The damage on the brain can result in brain damage permanently and comas.

How to Treat an Overdose?

The best way to prevent a heroin overdose is to use a counter medicine drug called Naloxone. Naloxone fastly reacts and binds to opioid receptors in which they block the effects being transmitted from drug to body that heroin provides the user’s body. It is recommended to use Naloxone right away but if it’s not available you must get them to an emergency room at a hospital right away. Naloxone might have to be used more than once. After the dust settles it will be recommended or legally forced that the user seeks addiction treatment at a registered center.

Short-Term Effects

Heroin is one of the most ruthless drugs ever to kick around the streets and is very very bad for one’s health due to the amount of morphine, so obviously, there will be short-term effects of using heroin. The short-term effects of heroin use include plenty such as dry mouth/cottonmouth, a warm flushing of the skin, and heavy feeling in body limbs like the arms and legs. Short-term effects also include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, severe body itching (mainly arms and face), clouded mental function, and going on the ‘nod’ which is a back and forth state of being awake(conscious) and not awake (semiconscious) in which you feel you fall asleep then wake up in a startle.

Long-Term Effects

Though the short-term effects may seem like a nightmare to have, the long-term effects are nightmares crazy uncle. The long-term effects target a lot of the body’s main functioning groups such as the cardiac system, organs, and nervous system. These effects include insomnia, collapsed veins, damaged tissues in the nose for the sniffer users, and infection of the heart and heart valves. Abscesses, constipation, or stomach cramping are also real, liver disease, kidney disease, lung complications, and mental illnesses develop such as depression, anxiety, or anti-social personality. Sexual dysfunction for men and ill regular menstrual cycles for women will occur as well in response to the long-term effects of heroin use.

Other Potential Effects

Another potential effect that heroin has, that can be either long or short-term is that “Heroin often contains additives, such as sugar, starch, or powdered milk, that can clog blood vessels”. Which can lead to damage to the lungs/liver/kidneys and brain which would result in permanent damage. Also, sharing injectors like needles can cause users to have an increased risk of infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis.

Canadian Laws Applicable to Heroin

In Canada, the only legal drugs are Alcohol and now Cannabis, which means all other drugs are illegal under the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act. In Canada, heroin is illegal therefore consequences will come. When you are aware or see someone on an opioid overdose, in this case, heroin, it is important to know you are covered by the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act. This means that you have the right to use CPR if needed, to take measures to keep the user alive and use physical force to make sure that person is receiving help until emergency services come. For example, in the Canadian Criminal Code 2020 under the Controlled Drugs and Substance Act, there are plenty of penalties. Some of the laws include that no person shall seek or obtain, which punishment is an indictable offense and is vulnerable to 1-7 years of imprisonment. Other indictable offenses include possession for purpose of trafficking, trafficking in a substance, production of substance, importing and exporting, and sales. With all the variations that the Criminal Code: Controlled Drugs and Substance Act provides the charges laid typically lay from 1-7-year jail time and a set fine. Being said depending on variations it could be a lot worse of a charge if you’re a repeat offender; usually seen in the production or importing exporting business of illegal drugs.

How Covid-19 Has Impacted Response from Law Enforcement

The ongoing pandemic worldwide known as COVID-19 has affected the response from law enforcement in Canada. Canadian police officers of all agencies, federal, provincial, and municipal have been now occupied by new laws as a result of COVID-19 which means that they are now busier than before. COVID-19 has given the public feelings of solidarity, aloneness, debt, no money, no food, and a poor standard of living for a good chunk of the Canadian population. These Canadians may have resorted to drugs and one drug leads to another until you’re at an extreme level of heroin. When the amount of heroin use goes up it sets of a chain reaction of overdoses, sales, trafficking, and deaths. So, while COVID-19 is around drug use is up including heroin and police officers/law enforcement will not be able to keep up with arrests of possession or responding to death calls by heroin overdose. At least this is my personal speculation on how law enforcement response would be impacted by COVID-19.

Canadian News Article in Relation to Heroin

This is a news article that relates to my topic because it is in Canada and related to drug (heroin) abuse. This article takes place on the west coast of Canada, which is British Columbia. The article reads “These parents say jail is the safest place for their son after B. C’s addiction treatment system failed him.”. This article highlights directly that there is a rising opioid problem in Canada and no style of treatment or addiction services help their son Lochlan’s addiction to multiple drugs including heroin. Lochlan is an addict who has ADHD and suffers from the after-effects of a brain tumor and medicine used to help ease the pain. After years of addiction parents Sheena and Mark Eraut of Lochlan stood in front of a Victoria B.C judge “to ask their son be kept in jail” because “ with no treatment that has worked, no mental health supports, and no available housing for their son, the parents have concluded jail is the safest place for him.”. The Erauts are one of many families nationwide that struggle to find proper help for their son’s drug addiction. Most families as stated are looking for “a place that won’t kick out addicts after a relapse and will work with them for longer than a couple of months to keep them safe and healthy. It is very sad to think that someone who is struggling with a terrible addiction of drugs that is messing up their life cannot find proper help to kick the addiction and flip a new page in life. Which parents of an addict would rather their son be placed in jail as a treatment method because what we are told as Canadians is the best ways for drug addiction treatment are failing to do their sole purpose. Stated in the article is that Mark believes that treatment centers charge out their patients that they can’t handle and sets them up for failure which is a sad reality we live in. Mark directly states “each time treatment fails, Lochlan returns to the homeless camps, parks, and streets of Vancouver and Victoria. His dad then goes walking and driving, looking for Lochlan’s tent to make sure his boy is still alive.” which is incredibly sad and shows a true problem with drug rehab.

This article goes to show that even starting from a legal drug can be health-damaging and how quickly it can escalate to illicit opioid drug abuse. It goes to show that heroin is still a highly used drug Canada-wide as well. It also demonstrates the ongoing issue that drug users and drug users’ families encounter in the midst of seeking proper help and the results come such as wanting to put their own family member into jail just so they can receive proper drug treatment and to beat the addiction in a very non-formal way. No one should ever have to experience this and that is why funding for drug abuse treatment is very crucial in today’s society in which you never know what will be the gateway to life in drugs.

Conclusion

To conclude, heroin is a fatal opioid drug made from morphine in form of black sticky tar or white/brown powder. It can be injected in several ways and cause lots of short/long-term effects on the human body and can result in death. There are laws to protect bystanders to heroin use and lots of information as well on what to do if someone is overdosing on heroin. There are identifying signs as well to notice heroin use. Heroin is an illegal drug which the Canadian Government does not condemn. Law enforcement response to heroin/any drug call has decreased with the ongoing problem which needs to be fixed because as long as theirs a pandemic affecting the way of life theirs going to be more and more drug use. Long story short is that heroin is not a drug to experience with and will lead to a lifetime of failure, illness, and a higher risk for death.  

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Heroin: effects, symptoms and impact of Covid-19. (2022, May 24). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 29, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/heroin-effects-symptoms-and-impact-of-covid-19/
“Heroin: effects, symptoms and impact of Covid-19.” GradesFixer, 24 May 2022, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/heroin-effects-symptoms-and-impact-of-covid-19/
Heroin: effects, symptoms and impact of Covid-19. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/heroin-effects-symptoms-and-impact-of-covid-19/> [Accessed 29 Jun. 2022].
Heroin: effects, symptoms and impact of Covid-19 [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 May 24 [cited 2022 Jun 29]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/heroin-effects-symptoms-and-impact-of-covid-19/
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