Brand name: Diamorphine BP

Street name: Smack, H, Brown, Scag, Horse

Description: Brown/white powder normally containing around 30 – 40% pure heroin. Often cut with adulterants or other drugs. Diamorphine BP – clear solution in ampoules.

Therapeutic use: Severe pain

Street use: Smoked, sniffed, 'chasing the dragon' (inhaling the fumes of heated heroin), injected. Heroin produces little effect if taken by mouth.

Drug effect: Painkiller and depressant

Dependency: Yes

Withdrawal: Effects of heroin last for 2 or 3 hours and withdrawal symptoms appear 8 to 24 hours after last dose. Symptoms resemble severe flu together with diarrhoea. They peak around the third day and fade after five to ten days. Sleeplessness may continue for some months.

Long-term use: Can result in constipation, breathing difficulties, irregular periods (menstrual cycle). If injected, possibility of infection and circulation problems.

Overdose risk: Deaths from heroin alone are relatively infrequent. However, the overdose risk increases after a period of abstinence or if heroin is mixed with other drugs like benzodiazapines, cocaine, barbiturates or alcohol.

Legal status: Diamorphine is a prescription only medicine and is a Class A controlled drug. This means it is an offence to possess the drug without a prescription or to supply it to others.

Maximum penalty:

For possession: Seven years and/or unlimited fine

For dealing: Life and/or unlimited fine