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How Opiates are Used

There are a number of synthetic opiates which are used as painkillers such as pethidine and methadone which is often prescribed for heroin and opiate addiction. Collectively opiates and synthetic opiates are called opioids.

Opioids powders can be swallowed or dissolved in water and injected, particularly into a vein which maximizes the effect. Heroin is sometimes sniffed, or the fumes from the heated powder is inhaled (this method is sometimes called "chasing the dragon").

Most opiates are taken orally, except heroin, which is in powder form. Heroin users generally begin sniffing the drug and gradually advance to injecting. The powder is dissolved in water and heated to produce a liquid. The user then injects the substance either subcutaneously or intravenously.

Subcutaneous injection ("skin popping") is when a heroin solution is injected into the layers of skin, usually in the arms or thighs. Intravenous injection ("mainlining") is when the heroin is injected into a vein. The effects of injecting heroin are felt within minutes and last three to four hours, depending on the dosage.

The large majority of heroin is illegally manufactured and imported, which originates largely from the Indian sub-continent. When sold at street level it is likely to have been diluted or cut with a variety of similar powders. The main dilutant is glucose. However, the practice of using other substances such as caffeine, flour and talcum powder is a constant danger to users.

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