Effects of the Use of Heroin and Causing Criminal Behavior

Effects of the Use of Heroin and Causing Criminal Behavior

Substance abuse, also known as drug use, can be defined as the pattern of injurious use of a substance for the purposes altering the moods of an individual. Problems occasioned by psychoactive drugs can be classified broadly into two categories. The first problem relates directly to the taking of the drug and includes the risk of overdose. Other negative effects can relate the use and abuse of certain drugs, as well as the attendant social harms such as drug dependency and the associated costs of treating it, or the incarceration of offenders. Substance abuse involves the consumption of substances in amounts or through methods that are harmful to an individual or others. The term “substance abuse” does not leave out dependency, but is used in a similar way in nonmedical contexts. The key area of concern as regards the use of drugs relates to the risk of dependence (Kleber, 2003). Drug dependence is connected to three fundamental processes, which include tolerance, physical dependence, and psychological dependence. Tolerance refers to a situation in which the continued use occasions a diminished effect because the user’s body develops mechanisms to compensate for the bodily chemical imbalances resulting from the drug use. Physical dependence is characterized by the incidence of withdrawal symptoms in the event that the use is discontinued while psychological dependence is typified by an increased use of the drug, yearning, and a tendency to return to use after discontinuation.

Heroin is an illegal drug that is becoming popular among the American youths, but what they do not know is that it has many negative effects against them. Heroin belongs to the opiates family. The terminology “opiates” is used to describe alkaloids that are naturally found in the opium poppy plant (Harris, 2005). Heroin is a prodrug of morphine element in the opium poppy plant (Kleber, 2003). Heroin is mainly produced as a white powder or black tar although nowadays it can be traded in different forms to divert attention from the authorities. The human brain has opiate receptors. This is according to a research that was carried out in the early 1970’s when scientist were studying the addictive nature of these opiates. When opiates enter the brain, they either intensify, or inhibit the neuron activity in the brain causing the “rush” which addicts experience when they administer them (Lowinson et al, 1997). An addict can use these opiates in numerous ways. It can either be through mouth administration, snorting, injection and even smoking it. However, many addicts prefer injecting themselves straight to the blood stream for this process guarantees faster reaction and immediate rush on the user (Kleber, 2003). This is caused by the immediate arrival of the opiates to the brain, and the pleasurable rush feeling is as a result of drug attaching itself to the opiate receptor cells.

Heroin has caused many negative effects in our society including; destroying futures, families, and careers as well as hindering economic development in our country (Santella, 2007). This is because, even when an addict tries to leave opiates abuse, it is not a clear cut or simple decision on the matter. Most of the persons who try to kick away the habit still find themselves backsliding to it even with deeper anticipations and cravings. Those who also abuse these opiates cannot even hold to a job or career meaning they have to resolve to desperate measure of getting money to purchase these products. Therefore, they resolve to life of crime in order to get the same. This means that our country loses many capable young men and women to these opiates, dragging our country’s economic and social developments behind (Santella, 2007). Other than heroin, other opiates like hydrocodone and oxycodone are also becoming a headache in the streets with their demand growing on a daily basis. These drugs are mostly prescriptions, and are meant for medicinal use, although they are being abused to serve other purposes. However, addicts who have already been used to heroin do not like them since they do not have a strong pleasurable rush like the latter.

Opiates can make anyone their slave even those people who thinks they can control their abuse. This is because; research has shown that brain nerve receptors tend to have adapting characteristics to the opium elements (Kleber, 2003). This means that with time, an abuser using either hydrocodone or oxycodone may not feel effect of these opiates. This is because these nerve receptors would have adapted to them, or simply in resistance, meaning an abuser would have to use a stronger dose like heroin for the same purpose. However, this implies not that patients who have been prescribed to take either oxycodone or hydrocodone should turn them down for fear of being addicts. However, they should follow the doctors’ instructions on what to do on finishing a dosage, since there may be some withdrawal effects (Brink et al, 2003). Research has shown that these withdraw effects are manageable by balanced diets, and also following doctors’ instructions to the letter.

Once these opiates have taken over abusers’ nerve receptors, treating them becomes very challenging although it depends on the level of the drug effects, and how long an addict may have been using them (Lowinson, 1997). These opiates have short and long time effects. Short time effects include; spontaneous abortions, clouded mental state, drowsiness, pain suppression, breathing difficulties and also slow functioning of the cardiac system (Harris, 2005). The most common short time effects, however, are the pleasurable rush that an addict feels when the natural opiod receptor receives the drug. Other short time effects include; nausea, severe itching, vomiting, dry mouth effects among others. These opiates also have long time effects, some of which are impossible to reverse even if an addict stopped using and became clean (Harris, 2005). They include; HIV/AIDS infections from injection needles or irresponsible sexual intercourse, abscesses, collapsed veins and addiction (Santella, 2007). Opiates also cause other infections other than just HIV/AIDS. For example, they cause heart valves infections, and also to the lining section. Hepatitis B and C have been caused by these opiates together with other bacterial infections. These infections bring about medical complications to addicts especially to the ones who practice chronic use of these opiates (Kleber, 2003). They include; lung complications, liver and kidney diseases, HIV, clogging and collapsed veins, arthritis and Hepatitis B and C among other tissue infections.

In addition, heroin and substance abusers are likely to have problems while relating to their family, community and school. Many of these people face problems with the law as most result to illegal acts such as theft, murder, drugs trafficking among other capital crimes to facilitate their habit. In addition, those who may not have resorted to such extreme measures may be caught by authorities while drinking and driving under the influence. Additionally, research shows that heroin is one of the drugs playing a significant role in bullying and school violence. For instance, the recent schools shootings by teenagers have been attributed to substance use and because of the sensitivity of the situations, some courts are trying even teenagers as adults. Trying teenagers who commit capital crimes as adults is being referred to juvenile “waiver”. Sometimes these kids commit capital crimes maybe due to being bullied by drug users, or they themselves are on hard drugs such as heroin.

If we were to take case examples on where juvenile waiver to adult criminal court would apply would be from school shootings committed by underage students. This is because; aggravated student violence in school negatively affects the students who attend the institution as well as the whole school’s community (Lieberman, 2013). For instance, on 27th august 2012, a 15 year old student took a shotgun to Perry Hall High School and fired it in the school’s cafeteria. This student was identified as Robert Gladden and when he fired, he shot a 17 year old in the back. There was controversy on whether he could be tried in a juvenile court, but his case was waivered to an adult criminal court. He was charged with attempted murder and sent to prison on the same charges for a period of 35 years. That was in February of 2013.

Another kid by the name of Thomas “T J” Lane took a semi-automatic rifle to Chardon High School and fired on a group of students. This incident took place on the 27th February of 2012. The students were at a cafeteria table, when Thomas opened fire on all of them in discriminatively. He killed three students and injured others.  One student who was just 16 years of age died on the spot and two more boys died the following day from gunshot wounds. When Lane was arrested, he was charged in an adult law court for firearms offenses, murder and attempted murder. He was sentenced for three consecutive life sentences without any chance of parole.

Another minor by the name of Michael Phelps shot a 15 year old fellow student by the name of Chance Jackson in the stomach on 25th march of 2011. This incident happened at the entrance of Martinsville West Middle school (Lieberman, 2013).  Chance Jackson had to undergo three abdominal surgeries that were life threatening. The experience itself was life threatening since Jackson is said to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The shooter fled the scene dumping the gun in a field, although he was later arrested. As a result, his charges were attempted murder, which earned him a 30 years sentence in prison. The sentence also included 5 years if probation, with the earliest chance of parole being set in 2026.

I have selected all of the above cases from underage shootings in learning institution because I feel that aggravated minor offences have become significantly common as days go by. In all the cases, judges passed sentences that are equitable to any adult who might have committed the same offences. These rulings highly impacted public policy regarding juveniles in the criminal justice system. This is more so because all the sentences were passed as if it were the adults who committed the offences. I feel that with passing of such sentences, the public now understands even the minors cannot get away with capital crimes like attempted and actual murder just because they are underage (Fagan & Zimring, 2000). In as much juvenile facilities were put up for special correction of minors and making them into responsible adults despite their acts, capital crimes should be met with capital sentences (Champion et al, 2013). That is the message that the juvenile judicial systems are sending to the society when they waiver capital cases to adult law courts.

When it comes to treating or just trying to rehabilitate an addict, it is very challenging. This is because an addict has to recognize and acknowledge that they need help something which is difficult for an addict to do. Most of these addicts are always in denial of their addiction to these substances and assume they have control of their actions, which they do not. Family members and friends of these addicts also fear being accused of intruding to their lives so they let them be until they realize they are in need of help, something that may never happen.

Detoxification is the first step of treatment that doctors undertake after an addict recognizes that they need help. This is primarily putting the under medical supervision in a controlled environment. This is because these addicts have to go through a withdraw phase that may be characterized by tremors, muscle aches, anxiety, diarrhea, vomiting and agitation among others (Santella, 2007). These symptoms are not lives threatening per say, but they are not encouraging to an addict who is willing to quit. However, these symptoms duration seems to primarily depend on the level of addiction, and on the opiate which was used. Strong opiates like heroin withdraw symptoms’ seems to take as long as a week while weak opiates takes less (Lowinson et al, 1997). To date, there is no specific mean of detoxification for opiates addicts. However, methadone seems to be doing quite well in detoxification of addicts who are later sent to maintenance programs, in order to discourage them from going back to using the drug.

Maintenance programs are forms of opiates addiction treatment. Addicts are advised to take doses of methadone treatment, which is only available in specialized clinics for fear of illicit markets cropping up. A single methadone dose stays in a patients’ blood system for a period of between 24-36 hours (Santella, 2007). Methadone use in the United States is still under political contention although it has proven to be the most effective maintenance drug. This is when methadone is compared to other maintenance means like buprenorphine and heroin. In a nutshell, heroin has many negative effects against its users.

Short term effects

After taking heroin in the body, it is converted to morphine. The user feels a rush of pleasure sensation. It is highly addictive because it is absorbed in the brain faster than the other drugs. Heroin rush is accompanied by mouth dryness, extremities feeling and a warm rush on the skin. Voting, nausea and severe itching may also be felt depending on the dosage taken (Harris, 2005). The user gets a drowsy feeling for several hours because the central nervous system is affected leading to a slow cardiac functioning. Overdosing heroin leads to slow breathing rate sometimes to a point of death.

Long term effects

Addiction is the most detrimental long term effect of abuse of heroin. Heroin has a profound degree of tolerance and physical dependency causing the user to spend time, energy and resources on the drug. Addicted individuals have signs of withdrawing symptoms when they attempt to stop abusing the drug (Lowinson, 1997). It can also lead to violent capital crimes that can earn an individual a very long jail sentence or even death penalty.

Solutions to abuse of heroin

Primarily young people should be educated about the effects of drug abuse and in particular, heroin. This will create a sense of awareness on them, preventing them from trying and abusing. The society also should dedicate more resources, time and energy to win the way against drug abuse.

Therefore, from this research it is evident that heroin is becoming really popular among the American youths. It is also evident that this drug has many negative effects including ones that leaves its users at crossroads with the law as it leads to crime in the society. Some of these crimes have dire repercussions among its users hence the society should come up with better means of discouraging youths from its use.



Champion, D. J., Merlo, A. V., & Benekos, P. J. (2013). The juvenile justice system: Delinquency, processing, and the law. Upper Saddle River, N. J: Pearson Education.

Fagan, J., & Zimring, F. E. (2000). The changing borders of juvenile justice: Transfer of adolescents to the criminal court. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Harris, N. (2005). Opiates. Farmington, MI: Greenhaven Press.

Kleber HD. “Pharmacologic Treatments for Heroin and Cocaine Dependence,” American Journal on Addictions (2003): Vol. 12, Suppl. 2, pp. S5–S18.

Lieberman, J., & Lieberman, J. (2013). School shootings: What every parent and educator needs to know to protect our children. New York: Citadel Press.

Lowinson JH, et al. eds. Substance Abuse: A Comprehensive Textbook, Third Edition. Williams and Wilkins, 1997.

Santella, T. M. (2007). Opium. New York: Chelsea House.

Van den Brink W, et al. “Management of Opioid Dependence,” Current Opinion in Psychiatry (2003): Vol. 16, pp. 297–304.

Worrall, J. L. (2006). Crime control in America: An assessment of the evidence. Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.