What does heroin smell like?
Like many chemical compounds, pure heroin is odorless. So, if you were to walk through a research lab, past a workbench with an open container filled with pure heroin, there would be no smell emanating from the heroin. Yet, if you were to walk through the same lab later, after the heroin container had been left open for a long time, you would smell an acetic odor. You would perceive this smell to be the unpleasant smell of vinegar. With prolonged exposure to the air, pure heroin develops this distinctive odor.
Of course, if you are a heroin
user, you are unlikely to encounter pure, laboratory-made heroin, made to the strict standards of a legitimate research facility. That is, unless you live in one of the few places in the world that allows people recovering from heroin addiction to use medical prescription heroin.
Out on the streets, heroin can have a variety of contaminants. It may contain other drugs, or one of many products used to cut the heroin to make it more profitable to the drug dealers.
Black tar heroin is an older example of a highly addictive heroin, rich in 6-MAM, the more addictive component of heroin. This tarry, black substance may have a strong medicinal odor.
Because of the many contaminants found in heroin on the streets, many scents are possible, including odors associated with the environment and people involved in obtaining and using the drug. If you snort heroin, as you draw air in through your nostril, you bring in the smells of the drug and the setting where you use the drug. These smells will imprint deep in your more primitive brain, creating a strong association with similar smells in the future.
What does heroin smoke smell like?
Smoking heroin creates an additional opportunity for interesting odors. A practice used by some heroin users involves burning a flame from a torch or lighter beneath a piece of aluminum foil with powdered heroin on top.
The user then breathes in the thick tendrils of smoke through a plastic drinking straw or a glass tube. This method of smoking heroin, also used for crushed blue oxy tablets, is commonly known as “chasing the dragon.” The dragon may be chased with other drugs as well, including powdered methamphetamine and methcathinone.
What does meth smell like?
Smoking heroin and other drugs, such as crack, methamphetamine, and others can have unique smells that may be chemical in nature. The smell could be sweet or even mechanical, like motor oil or the smell of a combustion engine. A person who smokes these highly addictive drugs will likely associate the smell with something that they are familiar with.
What does crack smell like?
I once read a book about the experiences of a former crack user when he was trying to overcome his addiction, but he was sabotaged by the surrounding people, including his drug counselor. One chapter describes the counselor lighting up a crack pipe in the room, filling the room with the familiar sweet smell of cinnamon.
Others have described their smoked drugs as having a faint scent of soap or detergent. It all depends on the way the contaminants and drug interact when heated up over a flame. What heroin smells like will depend on what is in the heroin.
How does heroin smell to your brain?
The amygdala is a brain structure that lies beneath the primary olfactory cortex. The amygdala helps to form emotionally charged memories that can serve as powerful triggers in the future.
For example, you might associate a drug that you once used heavily with a lavender-like scent. Then, years later, imagine that you shower with a new shampoo that contains a natural lavender scent. You may find your mind triggered to obsess over the drug all over again. That familiar sweet minty flower scent can penetrate deep into the ancient, primitive structures of your brain, waking up powerful memories and cravings for a drug that you may have mostly forgotten about over the years.
Fortunately, your brain also comes equipped with a prefrontal cortex, the latest upgrade to the already advanced mammalian brain. The human mind is capable of spiritual experiences and higher levels of thought and reasoning.
Given enough time and space, you can talk your brain down from intense drug cravings triggered by a familiar smell. The important thing is to develop new habits and make new friends. Your support network of people who understand and can help can be critically important during times when those triggers and difficult thoughts come back to haunt you. Various forms of therapy and medication-assisted treatment can help as well.
What does heroin look like when you buy it on the streets?
When patients tell me how much heroin they are currently taking, before starting Medication-assisted treatment
(MAT), it can be difficult to gauge how much opioid they are truly ingesting. While many heroin users do inject their drug intravenously (IV), it seems as if many more insufflate, or snort, their heroin.
Some patients describe their heroin coming from the dealer in small baggies, or Ziploc-like bags. I don’t know what these bags are made for, other than distributing powdered drugs. Other patients describe caps or capsules filled with heroin. The amount of heroin in a capsule or bag is probably the same, just a different method of containing the white powder.
Even if a heroin user were to measure their white powder on an accurate scale, in order to report accurate measurements to their doctor before starting MAT, it probably still wouldn’t make a difference. Heroin is a potent drug, known to be four times more potent than morphine. However, heroin on the streets is rarely pure.
Currently, nearly all street heroin is contaminated with fentanyl, or even completely substituted with fentanyl. Additionally, heroin may be contaminated with other opioid-like substances. Carfentanil is another synthetic opioid
that may be used to intensify the potency of street heroin.
Fentanyl is 50-100 times the potency of morphine, meaning that it may be as much as 25 times the potency of pure heroin. Carfentanil is 1000 the potency of morphine.
So, you can see that putting your heroin on a laboratory quality digital scale does not help, because, even if you know you used a gram, you don’t know exactly what you are measuring. Is it a gram of heroin or a gram of a drug that may be many times more potent than heroin?
What does heroin taste like?
Powdered drugs are not often taken by mouth. This is because the reason the drug is sold in powdered form in the first place is that it is intended to be injected or snorted. However, many users do taste these drugs, often as a test if the drug is real or not.
Tasting cocaine might cause a tingling or numbing sensation on the tongue, because cocaine happens to be a potent anesthetic as well as a highly addictive street drug. Heroin does not have this sort of effect on the mucous membranes of the human body. If you were to taste heroin, you would likely note that it tastes bitter, like many medications do, especially when you chew a tablet that is intended to only be swallowed.
Tasting street heroin does carry some risk, since it is possible that it could be contaminated with fentanyl or carfentanil. Particularly carfentanil, also known as elephant tranquilizer, is potent enough to deliver a dangerously potent opioid dose just by touching the tongue, inside the mouth, or possibly even skin.
What do drugs smell like to a drug sniffing dog?
It is interesting that the official chemical description of heroin states that it is odorless, yet dogs can be trained to track the scent of heroin and other drugs. This would indicate that heroin does have a smell that is detectable by law enforcement trained dogs.
Dogs have a highly developed sense of smell. They may experience smells similarly to how we experience our sense of vision. Some people are concerned that drug dogs are made to be addicted to the drugs they are trained to locate as part of their training. This is simply not true.
We may never know exactly how heroin smells to dogs. Possibly, they are more acutely aware of the acetic, vinegar smell before it is detectable by the human nose.
What kind of heroin addiction treatment can I get if surrounding smells are triggering heroin cravings?
Imagine that you quit taking heroin and start Suboxone
treatment. The unique and effective partial agonist/antagonist nature of Buprenorphine
, the key ingredient of Suboxone, helps patients to put their heroin addiction behind them. You continue your Suboxone treatment for a year and then you taper off of the medication with the help of your doctor.
With the help of therapy and your support network of friends and family, you find that you are able to function well without any serious drug cravings after completing Suboxone therapy. Then, one day, you visit a local store, and something in the air smells familiar.
You realize that it is something that smells just like the smells you remember from the days when you used heroin. Almost instantly, you start to think about heroin, having fond memories of the days when you used to use the drug. Addiction has a way of tainting memories to change the way we remember things.
Your days of active heroin addiction may have been extremely traumatic, yet your brain has twisted those memories into positive, happy memories. Still, your prefrontal cortex is able to reason that returning to heroin use will never be a good idea. You feel conflicted. What should you do? Would it be a good idea to go back on Suboxone?
Should I start Suboxone again if I have heroin cravings?
While there may be cases where resuming Suboxone treatment is a good idea, in many cases, triggers caused by smells and other triggers and cravings can be addressed in other ways that do not involve going back on Suboxone.
For example, you could discuss the issue with your therapist. Or, you could go to a peer support meeting, such as NA, AA, Smart Recovery, or LifeRing, to discuss what you are going through.
Remember that these cravings and thoughts triggered by memories associated with odors will pass. It is important to be prepared so you do not have an easy pathway back to using heroin or any other opioids.
In the beginning, when you first started your program of recovery, your doctor, therapist, or friends in recovery, may have recommended that you delete the drug dealer’s phone number from your phone. Fortunately, these days, we often do not remember phone numbers because our phones handle that for us.
Overcoming the heroin Social Media connection.
Yet, while deleting drug dealer and “using buddy” contacts from your phone definitely helps, there are a variety of ways that we maintain contact with people these days that may undermine recovery. Social media introduces a new complication to cutting people off in our lives when they are a harmful influence. For people who are clean for a decade or more, they may not be able to relate to drug dealers connecting with clients through social media. Drug delivery is more advanced now as well. Dealers even use Uber to deliver drugs directly to their clients!
In addition to thoroughly clearing out your contact lists on your phone, online, and on all social media channels, it is important to put other barriers between you and your access to drugs. I once overheard a man saying that he has 83 things to do before he gets down the list to using drugs.
Imagine being in a room with your drug of choice. Now, imagine that there is a tennis court net between you and the drugs. It might slow you down a bit, but ultimately, it will not stop you at all if you are determined. What if there was a concrete wall between you and the drugs? What if you had to get through 83 walls?
This heroin craving shall pass.
Addiction is a powerful force that uses our best mental resources against us. This is why intelligent, creative, driven people, who have the greatest potential for success in life, are at high risk for becoming addicted and have the most difficulty overcoming addiction.
So, if you smell something, such as a fragrance from a soap or shampoo, or smell from your lawn mower engine, or even the smell of vinegar, and it triggers you to obsess over heroin or your drug of choice, wouldn’t it be best to have barriers between you and getting to your drug? The obsession will pass in a short time and everything will be fine if you do not pick up a drug in your hand and use it.
You might meditate, pray, do deep breathing, go for a walk or run, workout in the gym, listen to a motivational recording or watch a video, go to a group meeting, call your therapist, talk to a family member, or one of many positive activities.
Fortunately, even with the powerful way that your brain connects smells with memories and wakes up old feelings, you have the power to structure your life to protect yourself from this ancient mechanism that exists in your central nervous system.