How Is Heroin Made?

Published on | Written by the AddictionResource Editorial Team

Heroin is a highly addictive drug derived from the opium poppy, the same plant that produces morphine. Heroin-related overdoses claimed the lives of 15,000 people in the United States in 2017. The substance typically appears as a white powder, but it can also appear as a dark, sticky substance called black tar heroin.

How Is Heroin Made?

Many people may have the question, “How is heroin made?” The answer can help bring about awareness of the dangers of the drug and how people should never attempt to make their own heroin.

Individuals with a preexisting dependence on heroin should understand how important it is to seek treatment for their own safety.

The History Of Heroin And How It Is Made

Heroin was first synthesized in Germany in the 1870s, and it became well-known as an effective pain medication and an alternative to morphine.

Heroin became popular in the U.S. because it was thought to be safe and non-addictive, but it was soon discovered that heroin was even more addictive than morphine.

People can build a tolerance to heroin very quickly, making it necessary to ingest more of the product in order to feel the same results.

Because of this, recovering individuals who take heroin again may try to take a dose similar in volume to how much they were using before. However, they no longer have a tolerance to heroin, meaning the new amount can wreak havoc on their bodies and result in a fatal overdose.

Producing Heroin: How Heroin Is Made Step-By-Step

Heroin is made from the opium poppy and is a more refined form of the medically used substance morphine. Heroin is such a strong form of opium that it is a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act.

Step 1 To Making Heroin: The Opium Poppy

The first step to making heroin is obtaining the sap from opium poppies. This sap is raw opium. The sap is collected and boiled.

During the boiling process, a white film rises to the top of the liquid. This film is scraped and put through a new process of boiling and filtering, eventually resulting in a brown paste. This is unrefined morphine.

Step 2 To Making Heroin: Converting From Morphine

The morphine is put through more processes to further refine it into heroin. The morphine must be mixed with water and other chemicals to purify it and turn it into acetylate.

Step 3 To Making Heroin: Adding Acid Or Ether

The product then goes through a final stage of mixing and filtering before acid or ether is added, turning it into heroin.

The process of turning morphine into heroin can be incredibly dangerous. The chemicals used can be explosive or caustic to the human body, and if the ratios are off, the resulting batch can be deadly to consume.

How Is Black Tar Heroin Made?

Black tar heroin is so-called because of impurities left within the heroin during the morphine purification process.

The leftover impurities make the heroin black and sticky, much like black tar. This kind of heroin can be even more dangerous than pure heroin, carrying greater risks of bodily injury and death.

The Process Of Cutting Heroin

Since heroin is an illegal street drug, its market has no regulations or standards to adhere to. Distributors will often cut the drug with other products in order to increase the volume they sell, and therefore their profits.

Heroin that has been cut with other ingredients carries a whole new set of risks. Cutting the drug introduces new substances that can be even more dangerous than heroin.

Additionally, the actual amount of heroin is unknown once it has been cut, leading to a greater chance of an accidental overdose.

What Substances Or Drugs Can Heroin Be Cut With?

There is no way for the average consumer to know what their heroin has been cut with. Drug distributors often won’t care what the other substance is as long as it increases their profits.

It is common to cut heroin with:

  • baking soda
  • sugar
  • caffeine
  • powdered milk
  • cocaine
  • fentanyl

Cocaine and fentanyl are very dangerous drugs, and the mix of heroin in combination with them can have serious and unforeseeable side effects. Lasting body damage and even death can be likely from the consumption of these drug cocktails.

When To Seek Help For Heroin Addiction

Heroin dependence is a real and serious condition. Any level of dependence calls for help. Recovery from heroin addiction is possible no matter what the circumstances are.

Someone who receives professional help will have the necessary tools to combat the addiction, avoiding the harm and danger that heroin addiction possesses while easing the symptoms of withdrawal.

It is important that treatment plans are tailored to the individual. Reasons for heroin dependence are different for each person, and the help they receive should be as well.

Effective treatments can include different kinds of therapy like cognitive-behavioral therapy, group therapy, and inpatient treatment programs, as well as medication-assisted treatment.

It’s not easy to struggle alone, but chances of recovery success are much greater when an individual receives help in a caring environment.

Contacting a professional can be a great help to individuals or their loved ones suffering from heroin dependence. Reach out to one of our treatment specialists today to learn how to find help for heroin addiction.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more