Heroin originates from the seed pod of the opium poppy plant. To make heroin,
- Farmers slice the seed pods of the poppy plant with a knife, which causes a milky sap to leak out.
- This sap is collected and dried, which creates opium.
- The opium is then boiled with chemicals and lime, separating the naturally-occurring morphine from other plant material. This is usually on-site at the poppy farm.
- The remaining morphine is processed with acid and heat into heroin, where it reaches its peak potency.
Each stage of the heroin manufacturing process is designed to make the drug purer and more powerful.
Does heroin come from a plant?
Yes, heroin comes from the sap of the poppy plant, officially named Papaver Somniferum L. This is the same plant that produces edible poppy seeds.
Poppies thrive in dry, warm climates and are grown across the Mediterranean region and throughout Southern Asia.
The poppy plant has been used to reduce pain since ancient times. But today, because of its connection to heroin, it is illegal to cultivate poppies for opium in most parts of the world.
Most of the heroin in the US comes from illegal farms in Southern Asia, Mexico or South America.
What is heroin made of?
Heroin that is available on the street is never 100% pure. It is usually a mixture of diacetylmorphine (pure heroin) and filler ingredients.
As heroin is trafficked and sold in the US, manufacturers and dealers “cut” their product, or add other ingredients, to increase profits.
What do people cut heroin with?
Houck et al. (2019) list common fillers used to cut heroin:
- corn starch
- powdered milk
- baking soda
Manufacturers and dealers also add synthetic opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil to their heroin to make it more powerful. Spiking heroin with synthetics drastically increases the potency, which makes it extremely dangerous.
Spiked heroin has caused countless overdose deaths during the opioid crisis. Often, people think that their just getting heroin, when in reality they are using a much more potent mixture of synthetic and natural opioids.
What does heroin look like?
There are three types of heroin on the market: black tar, white, and brown. Each type has a unique appearance:
- Black Tar Heroin: Dark brown or black, sticky, and usually rolled up into a ball. it gets its name because it looks like tar.
- Brown Heroin: This is heroin that is refined more than black tar, but less than white heroin. The granules of the powder are typically larger than those of white heroin and are a darker beige to brown color.
- White Heroin: This is the purest form of the drug but is sometimes cut with fillers to increase the potency even more. It is a fine, white or gray powder.
Heroin is usually sold in small wax paper bags, empty pill capsules (known as caps) or balloons. Often, manufacturers will stamp the baggies with a logo to brand their product.
What is black tar heroin?
Black tar is the term for heroin that has undergone minimal refining and processing. It gets its name from its black, sticky, tar-like appearance.
This form of heroin is usually smoked or dissolved and injected. Unlike powdered forms of the drug, black tar heroin must be heated up before it is injected, and shooting up is more likely to cause vein damage compared to other, more processed forms.
This type of heroin is more common in the Western portion of the US, particularly in Southern California. Most black tar originates in Mexico or South America.
What is China white heroin?
China White is a nickname for heroin that is processed all the way into a dissolvable salt.
It gets its name from its appearance – a white or light grey powder, and the fact that traditionally white heroin came from Asia. However, China white can come from anywhere in the world.
This type of heroin is more popular because it can be snorted, smoked or injected. And, because it is in salt form, it dissolves in cold water and does not have to be heated before injecting.
China white is especially dangerous because of its high purity. It can be found all over the country, but it is most closely associated with the East Coast, where it is smuggled into major port cities.
What is the half-life of heroin?
Heroin has one of the shortest half-lives of any drug, at just two to three minutes. In other words, within 2-3 minutes of using heroin, your body breaks down 50% of the drug into other chemicals.
However, the effects of the drug last much longer than the half-life. The body rapidly breaks down heroin into morphine, but the morphine continues to deliver pain relief and euphoric effects.
Because heroin has such a short half-life, those who are addicted have to use multiple times per day, making the risk of overdose even higher.
What is synthetic heroin?
Synthetic heroin is a term for opioid drugs that resemble heroin but are derived from man-made chemicals rather than the opium poppy.
Synthetic opioids mimic the pain-relieving effects of natural heroin, but can be made entirely in a lab and are often much more potent.
Fentanyl, the most common version of synthetic heroin, is fifty times stronger than heroin. While they are chemically similar to heroin, synthetic opioids are distinct drugs.
Synthetic heroin addiction is treated the same way as addiction to heroin or other opioids.
Medical detox is required followed by therapy to address the root causes of addiction. Inpatient treatment options, like JourneyPure’s drug rehabs in KY, are the most effective because they teach you how to live successfully without opioids.
JourneyPure.com doctors follow rigorous sourcing guidelines and cite only trustworthy sources of information, including peer-reviewed journals, count records, academic organizations, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, government reports and their own expertise with decades in the fields and their own personal recovery.
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