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Letters from January 2003

Question

I recently spiked up for the first time. It was what is was. An overwhelming feeling. I might continue using but I prefer snorting to control the potency and conserve the product. What can you tell me of the differences between snorting, smoking, and IVing H? Also I use pills. Mostly anti-anxiety, but some Vicodin. I read that you can separate the hydrocodone from the acetaminophen by dissolving it in water and then straining the particle matter out and the liquid is more pure. Is this true and what is the best way to strain it and how much water should be used? I'd appreciate your reply, take your time, like most stoners, I am patient. Thank you very much.

Answer

The first time I IVed, it was purely for research purposes. I wasn't interested in it and I went back to my preferred method of using: smoking (for a year anyway). All methods can be dangerous. Snorting is bad in that it takes a while to feel it so you can take far too much before you feel it coming on, and then you're dead. In this regard, smoking is the safest method. But smoking is a very dirty way of ingesting any drug. Injection is a very good method if you know what you're doing, you have pharmaceutical-quality drugs, and sterile equipment. But just injecting water incorrectly could cause an abscess that kills you.

If you like snorting, and you've done it for a while--why change? Just be careful and smart. And if you haven't done so already, buy Heroin User's Handbook, because it answers most of your questions in much more detail than I can here. Plus I'm going broke...

As for your second question, check out the article, Making Vicodin Less Toxic.


Question

Can you give me advice on how 'hypothetically' one would remove all the crap from benzodiazepam tablets and end up with relatively pure benzo. For example, how would you remove fillers from Valium.

PS: Don't mention IV stuff in reply.

Answer

Check out the new article on our site. It is in curious, then chemistry. The first thing after "Ask Dr. H". I had surgery with it--it causes retroactive amnesia. You may have a good time, but you won't remember it.

Since this isn't e-mail anymore, let me be more blunt...

Better Pill Injection


Question

I know you probably get this a lot, but how much is heroin. Like to start on? I am just curious to compare it to other narcotics and drugs... Any price information you could hook me up with would be great.

Answer

I am currently working on a comparison of opioid pill prices in various locations. My reason for doing this is to stop so many people from being ripped off. Depending upon where you are, pills provide more "bang for the buck" than does heroin. I haven't done a lot of research on this, but the reason seems to be that many people get pills for little or no money via the government and so the street price is sometimes less than the pharmacy price.

Let's compare 30 mg morphine tablets. They can be found for as little as $2. That is $67 per gram. Assuming a 3 to 1 potency ratio for heroin to morphine, that is $200 for a gram of pure heroin. That's a good price. Of course, people will tell you a gram of heroin goes for $30--it's mostly coffee or quinine or whatever. Low price street heroin is low purity. (I believe this was first discussed by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations, Appendix I: "There's no such thing as a free high".)

People continue to do heroin, I suppose, because they can easily inject it. Also, it is more soluble and generally safer when taken at high doses. Pills can be injected, but it takes a lot of work, and it isn't very safe. And many pills absolutely should not be injected.


Question

I find this topic very interesting. However when I was reading I was a little confused on who invented heroin in the first place. I read in two separate documents that it was invented in Germany and in the other one that was invented in England, by the British so they can sell it to China... which led to the Opium War. I wanted to relate this to the origin to the Opium War. I'll be waiting for your reply. By the way, I am a pre-med student. Any help from you will be highly appreciated.

Answer

Your confusion is understandable. I've seen the same things said.

Heroin was invented by an English chemist named C.R.A. Wright. He published his findings, but did not find much in the new drug that inspired him. About 20 years later, the German chemical company Bayer picked it up as a cough medication. In a sense, "heroin" was invented in Germany because it was Bayer that gave it that name. Before that, it was just a chemical.

The Opium Wars had nothing to do with heroin, because heroin was invented after both of them.



Timeline
1839-1841The First Opium War
1852-1856The Second Opium War
1874Heroin is invented
1898Bayer begins selling heroin
1914Opium is effectively made illegal (US)
1924Heroin is made illegal (US)


It is hard to study the opium wars because most authors apply 20th century ideas about drugs to this very 19th century conflict. The biggest misunderstanding involves the purpose of the wars. The Chinese wanted to stop the importation of opium into China. They were not trying to stop opium use; they were fine with the Chinese people using Chinese opium. In fact, the Chinese rulers sold their own opium.

The English were fighting for free trade. Of course, it is important to remember that the English did think that smoking opium was bad. But it is unclear why they thought so, given that they drank a great deal of opium themselves.

Regardless, the real conflict was over trade and the ever increasing trade deficit that China had with England. The Opium Wars, and 19th century opium use in general, is used too much to make arguments about current drug policy. Certainly, there are some lessons to be learned. But making comparisons is an extremely complex business.


Question

I did not see codeine pills under your "inject pills" section. I have ordered from overseas some codeine only pills--only 5mg. I also ordered some time release codeine by mistake. I do not like the results taken orally--and was wondering if the 5mg codeine pills could be injected IM.

Answer

IVing codeine can cause a pulmonary edema. IMing probably won't, but it isn't a good idea. Codeine is highly toxic. People think codeine is kids stuff, but it isn't. It just isn't that enjoyable. It is dangerous.


Question

How do you prepare hycodan pills for injection? Is homatropine methylbromide water soluble and therefore harmful IV?

Answer

I have reason to believe that hydrocodone should not be injected IV. I believe that it will likely cause a pulmonary edema. There is a procedure for removing the acetaminophen from Vicodin pills explained in the article Making Vicodin Less Toxic. But the purpose of this is not to make it "injectable". Don't inject hydrocodone.

Homatropine methylbromide is freely soluble in water. It is poisonous according to The Merck Index - Twelfth Edition


Question

I really am enjoying your site. It has a lot of helpful info. I got addicted to pain pills after I had a child and it ruined my life. I started taking 80 mg of OxyContin every day plus drinking. Methadone has reduced my craving and I only take 20 mg a day. I want to detox and I was thinking of going down 1 mg everyday for 20 days. Do you think this is a good way to do it? I would appreciate any advice you can give me.

Answer

That's a very reasonable rate to decrease. Most people fail because they go down too quickly. Going down 1 mg every 20 days will detox you in a little over a year. I would think that you would experience little discomfort.

Has the pain that caused you to start taking the OxyContin been dealt with--or gone away one way or another? That would be the only issue as far as I'm concerned.

Good luck with your detox. I'm sure you will make it.

Correction

I mis-read the original question. I though she wanted to reduce her methadone intake by 1 mg every 20 days. This would be a good idea, as I stated.

Reducing methadone intake by 1 mg per day from 20 mg to 0 mg is a little faster than I would recommend. However, it is not a bad decrease; it is far more gentle than many detoxes. A compromise might be 1 mg per week.


Question

Which would be safer to use. China white or black tar?

Answer

It is hard to say--impossible even. Really, it all comes down to how pure the sample is and what the adulterants are. In general, it is all the same. Tar heroin tends to be cut with sugar or coffee. White powder heroin is cut with milk sugar or quinine. It is harder to cut tar, so generally, it will only be cut by a person who knows what he is doing. Any street dealer can cut powder heroin, which means you are leaving yourself more open than with tar.


Question

I believe it takes heroin approximately 72 hours to get out of the system. Is it the same for OxyContin? Also, what's the half-life of heroin compared to OxyContin?

Answer

Heroin is a pro-drug. Its half-life is only a couple of minutes. It breaks down into morphine and it is the morphine that the user feels.

You can find the half-lifes of the major opioids on the site...

Opioid Strengths

Morphine (heroin) and oxycodone have the same half-life, 2-3 hours. In terms of drug tests, you must remember that the drugs themselves are not tested. Instead, metabolites are tested. But the 72 hour number is as accurate for oxycodone as it is for morphine.

Update

Heroin Helper will soon be publishing an article about the half-life of morphine when delivered to the body in the form of heroin and administered in different ways. As will be seen, this is a complex and interesting issue. Heroin relieves pain longer than morphine, even though morphine is responsible for the pain relief.


Question

I have a friend who is experimenting with this drug by snorting it. How long does it take for the drug to completely get out of the system? How many days would you have to stop before a drug test? Please reply at your earliest convenience. And how could a person tell if someone is addicted or just uses moderately?

Answer

Generally, after three days (72 hours) a drug test will report negative. But it depends upon the person's metabolism, how much he had used, how concentrated his urine was, and who knows what else. One could test positive for a week. I've even heard of people testing positive up to 10 days after, but that would be exceptional.

As for how long the drug stays in the body: forever. Drugs are removed from the body the same way that dirt is removed from a carpet. The first pass with the vacuum picks up a lot of dirt, the second less, the third less still and so on. There is always dirt in the carpet. So the amount of drug in the body keeps going down, but it never really reaches zero.

You can determine if someone is addicted by looking at his use pattern. If he uses every day, he is addicted. If he can go two days without using and without becoming very sick, he isn't addicted. It is very easy to become physically dependent on opioids. Using for three days straight will cause minor dependence. The longer this run, the stronger the dependence will be. This means, the worse the withdrawal syndrome will feel.

Apart from physical dependence, a big issue is habituation. How compelled is he to use. If his frequency of use is increasing, trouble is ahead. The thing that makes opioids difficult is that it doesn't take that much compulsion (to use the drug) before the user becomes physically dependent. And then he has a physical compulsion to use: he's sick if he doesn't.

One final thing: administration route doesn't matter. There are addicts who inject, smoke, snort, eat, whatever.


Question

I saw the process for extracting Tylenol® from Vicodin® and from the infamous but useless 222s/Tylenol® 3s. But seeing as Vicodin® is hydrocodone, I can see the cold water extraction working (and does, I have done it) but does the same hold true for Percocet®, being it is oxycodone and not hydrocodone?

Answer

One gram of hydrocodone dissolves in 16 ml of water. 1 gram of oxycodone dissolves in 10 ml of water. So it should work even better with Percocet®.


Question

I was just checking out your site because I am doing a report on heroin for my school. (They're frowning on it, but Brad Nowell is my idol). I was looking at the page with all the , brand names, and dosages, oral, IM, etc. Anyway, I noticed something called Sublimaze® (funny, hence Brad Nowell) or something like that, which had a 0.1 mg IV dosage level. This seems like an extremely small amount. I was wondering if you could tell me what 0.1 mg actually looks like. Size of a lead BB, tip of pen, half of a BB?... I don't know. Could you answer?

Answer

That's fentanyl citrate--it is used primarily during surgery--very strong stuff. It is 100 times as potent as morphine, but some of its analogs are as much as 3000 times as potent. It isn't stuff you want to mess around with. When it isn't used in surgery, it is administered with patches that release small amounts over time.

Roughly speaking, 10 mg is about 100 granulated sugar crystals. So 0.1 mg would be about 1 granulated sugar crystal.


Question

My sister was in the hospital for endocarditis because of her heroin use she left without treatment and now is still using heroin and crack and doesn't think she is sick. I heard from the doctors that she will die, but she said she hasn't died and it's been 4 moths later. Is it true that she will die? Please help.

Answer

Endocarditis takes between 6 and 12 months to kill. A colony of bacteria live on the heart valve. For food, they are eating the heart valve. Eventually, it will rupture and the victim will die. The disease is not due to heroin. It is due to the use of un-hygienic syringes.

You sister does not have to stop using drugs. She must be treated by a doctor and at this point it may well require surgery. But if she just ignores it, she will die within the next few months. Get her to the doctor. If you can't, resolve things with her and try to come to terms with her impending death.

She's probably being caviler because she doesn't feel bad. That doesn't matter. It isn't that kind of a disease. It's kind of a like a dam that has a crack. There's no sign of any problem until the dam bursts. You need to make her understand this.


Question

I'm currently in a methadone maintenance program as of about three months ago. I still love to smoke good nugs and truly believe it helps me from using more dangerous and addictive drugs. Before starting the methadone program I was extremely addicted to heroin (IV of course) for about eight years. I also had, and still have, a love affair with benzos, in particular Valium®. I do not want to continue my use of benzos, nor will I be allowed to remain in the methadone program if it continues to show up in my urine tests. My family is kind of "old school" in regards to weed and believes that I am not serious about my recovery if I continue to "dabble" with grass.

I have two questions really. First, although weed helps with my benzo problem, I would like to know if there are any non-addictive medications that are effective with benzo withdrawal and that you would recommend me talk to my doctor about. Second, due to financial difficulties (lawyer bills) I've moved back in with my parents. My question is, how do I convince my religious parents that I am truly serious about recovery without giving up the reefer which I believe is a life saver for me, and they believe the opposite.

Answer

As far as benzo detox goes: I know very little. I assume that it is similar to alcohol withdrawal. But just as with methadone and heroin, the withdrawal would be less intense but last longer. I will look around and see what information I can find about this. It should be on the site. Check the detox section of the site in a month or so.

The parent question is hard. The truth is that many people have used marijuana to get and (more important) stay off heroin. Marijuana has negative aspects--I'm the first to say that, disliking the drug intensely. But for all intents and purposes, it isn't physically addictive. It doesn't take over your life the way heroin does. Most people think that the only solution to a drug problem is to stop using any drug. But if a guy had a gambling problem--losing a couple thousand dollars every month--and then decided to stop and only bet one dollar a week on the state lottery, everyone would think he had done great. In fact, everyone would agree that he no longer had a gambling problem. If you used to be a heroin addict, but now you are on methadone and you're using marijuana recreationally--I think you're doing great. Drug abuse is not a binary proposition. It isn't all or nothing. What's better: (a) you not using any drugs at all for a week and then going back on heroin for a year, or (b) you not using heroin at all for the next year but using marijuana now and then? That's the issue.

For what it's worth, I have researched the issue. For those who like it, marijuana is very useful to people trying to stay off heroin. It is a road from heroin, not to heroin.


Question

Okay, I have a question, and I haven't really known whom to ask it. For about four years, I was a very recreational heroin user. I used only on breaks from my college, and only smoked. My habit slowly increased each time I came back home to visit, but I never suffered any serious physical withdrawal symptoms when I'd return to college. I would have a bit of trouble sleeping (but I always have), but the real problem was depression, which only lasted for two weeks or so but was fairly severe.

I continued this way until last summer. My connect left town for the weekend, and I felt physical withdrawal symptoms for the first time. I had only been using for a week or so, and I hadn't thought that I could get hooked so fast. (A doctor would later tell me that it was building for the four years.) I was freaked out, because I didn't want to be an addict, so I attempted to quit cold turkey unsuccessfully two or three times. It's not that the withdrawal was that bad, I'll admit--I have seen friends go through much worse, and I didn't have a very large habit. But I had the money to avoid it, and I couldn't come up with very many good reasons to stop except the fear of being a junkie, which eventually got to me. I talked to my mom, and she put me into a rapid detox program. This worked well for me, as my problem was small and they gave me enough meds to not feel any physical discomfort.

The psychological discomfort remained, however, and within a few days I scored again. I had been put on naltrexone, so my original plan was to save the H until the naltrexone was out of my system, but I didn't have the will-power. I tried smoking it anyway. It didn't work, but once again I got upset with myself and decided to leave town.

Now, after avoiding home for about five months, I am back. Heroin is on my mind, I and wish that I could go back to the days when it was fun and I had no fears of being addicted. I keep considering purchasing a small amount, but trying to keep myself from getting back onto buying every day.

I apologize for the life story, but I wanted to give a little background for my question. My detox doctor told me that if I ever did H again, I would immediately or at the least very soon be addicted again--that the addiction lies dormant in me at all times, and each time it will take less and less H to get me in trouble. This would put a wrench in my plans for doing it just a few times while I'm down here.

So I guess I'm just wondering if my doctor was bullshitting me or not. I don't really understand the nature of the addiction that well. Was it building for four years? Would I get sick afterwards if I used just once more? I understand that the answers to these questions depend on a lot of variables having to do with me, and that the answer won't be the same for everyone, but whatever you could tell me would be helpful. Part of me is just not sure if I want to completely give up a drug taking lifestyle. Although I know that I do not want to be a junkie, and I sure as hell don't want to go through withdrawal again, it would be dishonest for me to say that I don't truly enjoy heroin, and would love to have it in my life again, even in a smaller amount.

No matter what, thanks for the website. Honesty is at a premium in drug discourse.

Answer

Thanks for the life story. I'd like to put it up in the experiences section of the site. If that's okay, let me know if you want to use your real name or do it anonymously.

Your detox doctor, like almost all of them, is an idiot. The addiction had not been building up over four years. The sad fact of the matter is that it takes almost no time to get addicted to heroin. Three straight days of fairly constant usage will get you addicted. Even two days is pushing it.

The problem with knowledge of withdrawal is that you are on-guard for it. You might get the flu, but you'll think it's withdrawal, panic, use more, and really become addicted. And contrary to what many people believe, using heroin will not only suppress withdrawal symptoms--it will suppress flu symptoms too. So there is no way to tell for sure--except to wait.

For what I'm about to write, I am assuming that you have been clean for a long time--at least a few months. If it has been a couple of days or weeks, forget it. Run away. You can't use even once yet.

So, assuming months or years...

You can use once. My formula for avoiding addiction is this: use no more than one 8-hour period in any 72 hour period. So you can use once. The question is, will you use once? And if you do use once, will you get back on the treadmill? Will you use once this time, but in a month get yourself re-addicted? Physiology is easy, it's psychology that's hard. Self-image is really important here. People become junkies in their minds long before they do so in their bodies.

Another thing to consider is that addiction is not the only risk. There is the ever possible overdose. There are diseases. There is bad dope. There is jail. There is money. Think about it carefully. There are surely other things that will make you happy.

Good luck, whatever you decide.


Question

James Taylor's Fire and Rain is about his then girlfriend Susan who died in a plane crash on a surprise visit to see him when he was recording his first album. Get your facts straight.

Answer

Heroin Helper is not without fault, but we do check our facts. Too bad the same cannot be said of those who send us anonymous e-mail. See, for example, the excellent urban legend website Snopes that discusses this well known Fire and Rain urban legend.

by Dr. H © 2003
Last Modified: 14 January 2004


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