image of Drug syringe and cooked heroin on spoon

In this article we’ll cover the following:

Heroin, an illicit drug, is one of the most commonly abused drugs in the US. This illegal drug can easily be distributed in the country as heroin is produced worldwide.

With heroin’s availability and the rising number of individuals abusing this substance, do you ever wonder how heroin is made?

Heroin is actually derived from morphine. And morphine is extracted from a particular species of poppy pods.

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, these species of poppy plants are cultivated largely in Asian and Latin American countries. Afghanistan, Laos, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Thailand are some of these Asian countries that grow this plant. Columbia and Mexico are some of the common sources of poppy plants.

How is heroin made?

Heroin is usually done using two procedures:

  • Extraction of morphine from poppy pods
  • Processing heroin from morphine
  • Purification process of heroin

Extraction of morphine from poppy pods

Typically, the processing of heroin occurs in a drug laboratory. Here are the steps on how morphine is processed from poppy seeds.

  1. Crush and dissolve Opium bricks or balls in drums of hot water and lime.
  2. Continuously add lime until the mixture reaches pH level 10-12. Cover this solution and allow it to sit overnight. You’ll notice the following morning that a white layer of crude morphine floats on top. Other organic substances and insoluble oils sink to the bottom of the drum.
  3. Strain the solution using cheese cloths or burlap sacks. Filter the liquid until you remove all organic matter and insoluble oils from the mixture.
  4. Crude morphine is separated and is mixed with ammonium chloride in a barrel. The mixture is then stirred vigorously and left to sit for a day.
  5. The following day, a cloth soaked in warm water is used to filter the solution. You’ll notice a brownish paste on the fabric after filtering the mixture. This brownish paste is what you call the morphine base. It’s known that 50% of morphine can be processed from this base.
  6. Compress the morphine base is compressed into bricks and have it air-dried under the sun.

When the brick is completely dry, the morphine base will look like a block of modeling clay. Now, the dried block can be chemically processed to convert it into heroin.

Processing heroin from morphine

Acetic anhydride, activated charcoal, acetone, baking soda, chloroform, ether, and ethyl alcohol are the main ingredients to make heroin. An expert chemist or person experienced in making heroin knows the exact measurements and formulations to create this drug.

  1. In a glass or enamel-lined container, mix equal amounts of morphine and acetic anhydride and heat the mixture for several hours at 85 degrees Celsius.
    The process produces diacetylmorphine. It’s odorless but may emit a faint vinegar-like odor after exposing to air for an extended period. Once exposed to air, the solution turns pink. This substance is further processed to remove impurities.
  2. Water and chloroform are then added to diacetylmorphine. Impurities precipitate and are filtered out.
  3. Then, add baking soda to the solution. You may observe that the mixture forms bubbles or fizzes out as the acid and the base agents react. Continue adding baking soda until carbon dioxide no longer bubbles out. Make sure that the pH level of the solution reaches 10.
    During the process, you’ll notice brown deposits at the bottom of the container. These deposits are crude forms of heroin.
  4. Filter the solution using a cloth to separate the heroin. These chunks of crude heroin still contain impurities and have to be removed entirely.
  5. Dissolve these chunks of heroin in dilute hydrochloric acid until the pH level reaches 7-8.
  6. Add activated charcoal to the solution and let the mixture sit for a couple of hours before doing the filtering process.
  7. When the solution is ready to be filtered, use a cloth first to filter the solution. Then, thoroughly filter it using a filter paper.
  8. Add dilute ammonia solution to the filtered solution. The heroin base precipitates when the pH level reaches.

The solution is then filtered to separate heroin from other impurities.

Purification process of heroin

This is the last step in creating heroin.

  1. The precipitate is dissolved in a solution of hydrochloric acid and acetone.
  2. Filter the solution in a metal container and let it sit for some time. After some time, the liquid evaporates, and all that’s left is a white, fluffy, powder-like substance. This power is what you call ‘heroin hydrochloride.’

There’s about 75-90% pure heroin hydrochloride processed in laboratories. This form of heroin, also known as No. 4 heroin can be smoked, snorted, or injected.