Search Engine: Google
Search items used: Heroin Addiction
List of first 5 sites:
The DSM-IV does not specifically address heroin addiction per se, but rather the general category of opioid addiction (304.00 Opioid Dependence, pg. 270 in the DSM-IV). Furthermore, the criteria for opioid dependence fall under the general category of substance dependence (as do all substances, pg. 192 in the DSM-IV).
A cardinal feature of heroin dependence is the withdrawal symptoms experienced when opioid use is abruptly stopped. All the sites above make mention of this, with the exception of site b (which is a site used to get people in touch with treatment options).
My general impression of the sites above is that they focus more on describing how one can spot heroin use. For example, how to tell when one is high (e.g., “the nods,” constricted pupils, etc) or how to tell when one has been using (track marks, burnt spoons, cotton swaps, etc.). Besides site d (which I think is the most comprehensive when its links are also counted) none of the sites really mention the neurological aspects of heroin addiction; that is, how heroin addiction actually changes the brain. I think this is an important aspect of addiction that the public should know about. Most people still view heroin addicts as somehow having no morals are a weak character. They don’t realize that once they have become addicted, it is almost like they cannot help it (due to neurological changes). The sites above focus on the detrimental health effects, such as HIV, hepatitis C, endocarditic, etc. I think this contributes to the overall negative attitude of the general public toward heroin addicts, as well as the view that they are dirty or even subhuman.
I should also mention that I think that the DSM-IV is of only minimal use regarding substance addiction. One or two chapters in a book cannot even come close to capturing the complexities of drug abuse and addiction. From a purely medical standpoint, one can use the DSM-IV to say, “yes, this person shows the signs of addiction.” But that’s pretty much where the usefulness of the DSM-IV ends, in regards to addiction.
As far as searching online for information about medical/psychological problems, I view it as a way to gather general information. Obviously, one should not accept as fact what one reads on the internet. However, one may gather tidbits of information that one could use when approaching a professional about the problem. Furthermore, internet sites may be helpful in directing people toward more comprehensive books and articles about a medical/psychological problem. In short, the web is a good starting point.
FYI: Site e has an interesting (and accurate) description of the history of heroin.