The Global Initiative For Drug Policy Reform



Heroin is a semi-synthetic narcotic drug which is synthesized from morphine,a derivative of the opium poppy). The majority of vast heroin in the west comes from Afghanistan, with Myanmar (Burma) producing the second most.


Heroin is a class A drug in the UK, and it is controlled by the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which means that it is illegal under international law for any country to legalise the commercial sale of heroin.

Medical use:

Heroin is a very strong pain reliever and is currently used in hospitals in cases of severe trauma. Once it is in the body it turns into morphine, a drug with wide medicinal uses. Heroin is also sometimes prescribed as a maintenance drug for addicts, used to reduce the symptoms of withdrawal. [In Clinics in Switzerland where heroin has been given free to addicts, surrounding areas have noticed a massive drop in burglary.]


Recreational use:

Heroin can produce an intense feeling of euphoria in the user, and can be used to help with relief of chronic pain.


Heroin itself is not particularly harmful, which is why it is so useful medically. It is, however, extremely physically addictive. When a heroin addict does not get their “fix”, their own body reacts against them, making them nauseas, giving them strong cravings, affecting their mood. Heroin addicts often turn to crime to fund their habit, and some have estimated that 60% of acquisitive crime is drug related. There is also a risk of overdose, although this is rare except in cases where heroin is combined with other “downers” such as Valium or Xanax. Heroin has been given a harm rating score of 55 by the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, making it the second most harmful drug, taking into account both individual and social harms.