This book is about heroin addicts. The lives of these individuals are in most ways no different from those of their friends and neighbors who do not use heroin. Many heroin addicts work at legitimate jobs. They have families. They enjoy many of the same types of recreational activities as those of us who do not use heroin. Yet the world of heroin use is quite segregated from the day-to-day lives of most Americans. Consequently, numerous stereotypes of heroin addiction have been cultivated, many of which bear little resemblance to the experience of most addicts. In this book, I seek to portray heroin use and addiction from the perspective of those who participate in the heroin-using subculture.
Heroin is part of a rather large family of drugs known as opiates or, more commonly, narcotics. Natural opiates are those drugs that derive from the poppy plant, and they include opium, morphine, and codeine. Synthetic opiates are pharmacologically similar to natural opiates but are artificially manufactured in a laboratory. The most common of these are Demerol, Darvon, and Methadone. Heroin is a partially synthetic drug, the product of treating morphine with acetic anhydride. Heroin was originally introduced into medicine as a cough suppressant by the Bayer Company in 1898. It was banned from medical use in 1924, although virtually all of the other opiates have legal medical uses in the United States today.
Physiologically, narcotics act to depress the activity of the central