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Heroin – 6-acetylmorphine or 6-AM (smack, brown sugar, skag, junk, black tar, etc.) is one of the most commonly abused drugs in the United States. People abusing prescription opioid pain medications may be turning to heroin as an alternative because it is cheaper and easier to obtain. As a result, around 23 percent of the people that use, end up addicted. The drug is injected, inhaled by snorting or sniffing, or smoked. These methods deliver the drug quickly to the brain. As a result, this leads to a high risk for addiction. Addiction is a chronic relapsing disease caused by changes in the brain and characterized by uncontrollable drug-seeking no matter the consequences.

Heroin addicts or users can become a liability in the workplace because use of this drug may impact decision-making skills, the ability to regulate behavior, and responses in stressful situations. When heroin is injected, it may cause an initial euphoria, dry mouth, a warm flushing of the skin, heaviness of extremities, and clouded mental functioning. However, after this initial euphoria, users may rotate from a wakeful to drowsy state. Other serious health conditions from heroin abuse may include spontaneous abortion, infectious diseases like hepatitis and HIV, collapsed veins, infection of heart lining and valves, abscesses, constipation and gastrointestinal cramping, liver or kidney disease, and even fatal overdose. Overdoses can involve the stoppage of breathing and affect the amount of oxygen that extends to the brain. This is known as hypoxia. This can lead to psychological and neurological effects such as a coma and permanent brain damage.

Withdrawal symptoms can include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea and vomiting, cold flashes with goosebumps, and kicking movements.

AMC offers multiple drug screening panels to cover opiates which includes heroin. A urine drug screen can detect heroin going back 1-3 days and up to 90 days in a hair follicle test. AMC also offers drug screening programs as a way to ensure the safest workplace possible.

National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.