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Estimating Habit

In the article Codeine Detox, I gave a rule of thumb on how to determine the level of your heroin habit. Doing so is critically important when you attempt to ween yourself from your heroin habit. Once you know how much heroin you are doing, you can determine how much of some other opioid (codeine in that case) you would need to do in order to prevent the onset of withdrawal symptoms. After much reflection, I have concluded that my "rule of thumb" was bad and I have devised a new means of determining this critical value.

Purity Is Not Set: In Time or Location

In the codeine article, I suggested that you assume that your heroin was one-third (33%) pure. This didn't make sense based upon a couple of other things I knew to be true. First, if heroin sold at $40 per gram was 33% pure, the dealer would be losing money. Second, the amount of methadone administered to addicts during the beginning of a 21-day detox would not be nearly enough. In addition to illustrating the problems with the 33% assumption, these inconsistencies provided the means to determine a relatively accurate heroin habit.

You Get What You Pay For

We know from data collected by the United Nations that the retail price of a gram of heroin is roughly $125 in Europe and $300 in the United States. Using these numbers, you can get a ball-park idea of how pure your heroin actually is. For example, San Francisco's "$40 per gram" heroin must be ($40 ÷ $300) 13% pure. A $40 gram in Amsterdam would be ($40 ÷ $125) 32%.

Determining the actual amount of heroin you are doing is just as easy: just divide the average amount you are spending on heroin each day by the retail price ($300 or $125). This means that a person with a dime bag per day habit in the United States is doing 0.033 grams (33 mg) per day. You can use this formula:

Your Habit (in mg) = Your Cost (in $) ÷ 0.3

Caveats

This will give you a ball-park idea of what you are doing. Other factors will change this number.

Quantity Discounts
The $300 per gram price is for someone buying a gram. Users who buy more than this may get a quantity discounts, just as users who buy less than this will certainly pay a premium. The guy with the dime habit will be paying at least double the per gram price that the gram buyer will pay.
Geography
Users who live closes to the drug source or along major distribution lines will pay less for their dope than people who live in remote areas. Of course, the United Nations numbers are undoubtedly skewed toward New York City, so this is likely to cause the per gram price to go up for remote areas, and not down for metropolitan areas.
Dealer
Users who buy from acquirers or other "non-full-time" dealers will pay a premium.

Notice that anything that causes the real per gram price of heroin to go up will cause the estimated habit to go down. And visa-versa.

Matching Doses

Once you have a good idea of how much heroin you are doing, you are in a position to match doses with another opioid. This adds a couple of complications. First, not all opioids have the same strength. Second, not all opioids stay in the body the same length of time. Data for both these parameters can be found in opioid strengths in the pharmacology section of Heroin Helper.

Total Use Vs. Average Use

The amount given by the formula above is the total amount used per day. Heroin has a halflife of three hours (caveat). This means that if you use heroin once per day, there will be less than one-half of one percent (0.5%) left in your body each time you use. This is why most addicts find it necessary to use a few times per day. After six hours, the drug is at 25% of its maximum--this is about the time when addicts begin to experience some discomfort from withdrawal.

When switching from heroin to codeine, there is no need to compare how long the drugs stay in your body; this is because codeine has the same halflife. For a drug like methadone, this effect is large. Methadone stays in the body eight (or more) times as long as heroin. As a result, you will need only 1/8 as much methadone as heroin to keep from experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Opioid Strength

Opioids vary in terms of their strength. Heroin is one of the stronger ones. Taken IV, it is 60 times as strong as codeine taken orally. It is even 6 times as strong as methadone (impressively, however, methadone is only 30% weaker than heroin when both are taken orally). The differing strengths of the opioids must also be taken into account when matching doses.

A Complete Example

Imagine a junkie, using $20 of heroin every day. The total amount of heroin used every day is thus $20 divided $0.3: 67 mg per day. Note that this number does not depend upon the "per gram" price he pays for heroin; in Portland he would be buying 0.15 grams of "heroin" and in San Francisco he would be buying 0.50 grams of "heroin". The amount of actual heroin is the same: 67 mg.

If he wanted to switch to methadone, he would need to decrease this amount because of methadone's longer lifetime and increase this amount because of methadone's lower strength. He would only need 1/8 as much due to the lifetime, or 67 mg divided by 8: 8 mg. But he would need 6 times as much because of the weaker strength of methadone, so 8 mg times 6: 46 mg of methadone. A typical number for a typical habit.

You can convert from the amount of money you spend on heroin to the amount of methadone you will need to use to avoid withdrawal symptoms using one formula:

Your Methadone (in mg) = Your Cost (in $) × multiplied by 2.5

by Dr. H © 2002
Last Modified: 11 January 2004


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