3.7 Heroin and methadone (see also 4.7

"Brown sugar - how come you taste so good. "Rolling Stones, 1971.

Heroin belongs to the so-called opiates. These are substances derived from the plant, papaver somniferum. By making an incision in the unripe seed pod of the papaver plant and drying the released milky juice, the lightest of the opiates is won: Crude opium. Crude opium has been used for centuries already. From crude opium, morphine is isolated. And from morphine, through a chemical process, the strongest opiate is won: Heroin. Pure heroin is never sold. The coarse-grained white powder or the tiny yellow 'rocks' are always cut with caffeine, aspirin or milk sugar.

How is heroin used?

Heroin can be 'chased', injected, sniffed and smoked. 'Chasing the dragon', however, is becoming increasingly popular: The drug is placed on a piece of aluminium foil and heated. The vapour is inhaled into the mouth with a pipe and directly reaches the lungs.

I-low do opiates work?

All opiates have a strong sedative effect, but heroin in particular. Pain, sorrow, fear, hunger and cold are no longer felt. There is a short euphoric effect, (the rush), but also a feeling of indifference: The outside world no longer matters. On average, the effect lasts three to five hours.


Methadone, (invented in Germany before the Second World War), is a synthetic opiate which, just as heroin, is extremely sedating and painkilling. The big difference is that the effects of methadone last longer: Not four to six hours but more like 12 to 24 hours. The body of a methadone user does not react as quickly, which enables a normal rhythm, day and night. Another advantage is that with methadone, no syringes are involved - and therefore, no danger from dirty needles! Methadone can simply be drunk or swallowed in pill form. Methadone can also be used intravenously. All this makes methadone very suitable for people wishing to quit heroin. However, methadone is not harmless. In principle, it is just as addictive as heroin. Many users feel that
nethadone is even more addictive.

How can you tell heroin use in prison?

Heroin/methadone users will become luggish and sleepy. This however, only pplies to 'chippers' (occasional uses) or when a bigger dose than usual is ingested. Individuals with a tolerance often o not display any symptoms of intoxiation at all. They are difficult to pproach and slow in their reflexes. eroin and methadone taken alone never ause aggression in a user. Users in withdrawal, however, might well be irritble.

Heroin as a cure for morphine addiction
Heroin was once the methadone of today it was first produced in 1898 and, among others, sold as medicine against morphine addiction(!) When it appeared that heroin was even more addictive than morphine, most countries gradually discontinued the medical use of heroin.