Heroin is really just morphine with a few more molecular groups that are fat-soluble, allowing the drug to penetrate the brain more quickly.
While heroin can be injected, snorted or smoked, injection into the vein is the most common delivery method and takes only 10 seconds to reach the brain. Intramuscular injection, takes about 7 minutes for the effects to be felt. Snorting it takes up to 15 minutes and produces a less intense rush than the one desired by heroin users. However, given the increasing availability of highly pure heroin today and the greater stigma attached to injection (including dirty needles that can result in the transmission of AIDS or hepatitis C), many users start by snorting it.
Regardless of how the drug is initially taken, almost 1 in 4 users become addicted to heroin, making it the most addictive of all drugs along with methamphetamines. And the consequences for those addicts is usually disastrous. Heroin addicts often spend more than 50% of their disposable income on the drug and remain undeterred by price increases. In fact, studies in the U.S. have shown that the demand for heroin is highly inelastic to price changes. The adverse effects on the economic behavior of the heroin addict are more severe than for any other drug, often resulting in using violence to obtain the drug or money to buy it. Given the growing heroin crisis in the U.S., there is growing support for treating its addiction. Yet, SmartDrugPolicy believes the current attention and resources dedicated to prevention are still insufficient. Hopefully, the prevention provisions in the 2016 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act will catalyze more attention and resources to discourage prescription opiate and heroin use in the first place.