Heroin is an illicit drug that is highly addictive in nature. Processed with morphine, which is derived from poppy plants, it is usually found in powder form, but there are various ways heroin is made, affecting its purity. Pure heroin looks like a white powder and may be smoked or snorted. Darker, more impure heroin is diluted or dissolved, and then injected into one’s skin, muscles, or veins.
The nature of the drug’s effects brings an increased risk of overdose. Exacerbating the problem further are variations in purity. The Centers for Disease Control reported over 10,500 heroin overdose deaths in 2014, which is more than quadruple the number in 2002, in part because of unknown purity and the presence of cutting agents and filler
Overdoses may be treated with naloxone. An opioid receptor antagonist, this medication binds to the receptors and blocks heroin from binding to and activating them. The medication can reverse an overdose. In 2014, the FDA approved a handheld injector to reverse opioid overdose; a single dose under the skin or into muscle is enough to suppress the drug’s effects until the person can receive medical assistance.