Heroin is a powder obtained from the dried milk of the opium poppy plant. Pure heroin is white, but with impurities, it is brown powder commonly known as brown sugar. Other names by which heroin is known are Kichuri, Kiketi, Skag, junk, unga, pony, mzigo, stuff, boy, maponaji, prama, daba daba, kete, joy powder, hard stuff, white stuff, horse, mwimbwi among others.

As with other opioids, heroin is used as both a pain-killer and a recreational drug and has high potential for abuse. Frequent and regular administration is associated with tolerance, moderate physical dependence, and severe psychological dependence which often develops into addiction. Despite this, heroin has been proven to act as an extraordinary fever reducer.

One of the most common methods of illicit heroin use is via intravenous injection (colloquially termed “shooting up”). Heroin base (commonly found in the UK and Europe), when prepared for injection will only dissolve in water when mixed with an acid (most commonly citric acid powder or lemon juice) and heated. Heroin in the US is most commonly its hydrochloride salt, requiring just water to dissolve. Users tend to initially inject in the easily accessible veins in the arm, but as these veins collapse over time through damage caused by the acid, the user will often resort to injecting in other veins.

Recreational users may also administer the drug through means of snorting, or smoking by inhaling its vapors when heated; either with tobacco in a rolled cigarette or by heating the drug on aluminum foil from underneath. When heated the heroin powder changes to a thick liquid, similar in consistency to molten wax, and it will run across the foil giving off smoke which the user inhales through a tube, usually made from foil also so that any heroin that collects on the inside of the tube can be smoked afterward. The user follows the “blob” of heroin with the intention of inhaling, through the tube, as much of the smoke as possible - i.e. “chasing the dragon.”

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