How is heroin made? Heroin is an opioid and is a cousin of both morphine and opium. All three of these drugs are made from resin that comes from poppy plants (the same plant that produces poppy seeds that are sometimes used in cooking or baking).

Though heroin is originally from a raw, natural substance, it is highly processed to ensure it delivers the high it’s known for. Some people who manufacture or distribute heroin may also cut it with other components to help increase their profits. There are instances of cartels and other distributors cutting their heroin with household chemicals and other extremely dangerous substances.

women swinging on the beach wondering how heroin is made

Over a century of heroin addiction

While the opioid crisis may be something we’re dealing with in modern times, heroin itself dates back to the 1800s. Opioid addiction dates even further back and was a serious problem in America even in the mid-19th century.

Even then, though, medical companies and physicians recognized that controlled use of opioids could have medical benefits, which is actually why heroin was developed in the first place. In 1874, someone first synthesized heroin, using morphine as the beginning product.

Bayer, which was a German pharmaceutical company at the time, marketed heroin to treat tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases; it was sold as a cough suppressant. The company sold the product for 12 years as a “non-addictive” replacement for morphine, which was already known to be an addictive opiate. It wasn’t until later that doctors and others discovered that heroin metabolized into morphine in the body, leading to potential addiction for anyone who used it.

Production of heroin

Heroin actually begins as an agricultural product with the planting of opium poppy seeds. It takes about three months for the flowers to bloom from this plant, and this is when opium can be harvested. The pod of the flower is removed and split with a special tool. The pod contains a fluid that looks somewhat like milk, and it’s this substance that has the raw opium in it.

Soon after the substance is remove from the pod, it becomes stickier and thicker, like sap. Farmers can form it into shapes and store it in plastic or even wrapped in leaves. The farmers then sell this substance.

The buyers of the raw opium put it through a process that involves boiling it in a mixture of lime and hot water. During this process, a white film rises to the top — morphine. From there, the product is boiled and filtered some more to create a paste that is brown in color. The paste is molded and dried into shapes.

At this point, the product is almost heroin, but some additional components have to be added, including acetic anhydride, water, chloroform and sodium carbonate. The product also goes through more mixing and filtering before acid or ether is added to purify it and turn it into the white powder the illegal drug market knows as heroin.

Is street heroin always pure?

Heroin itself and the impact it has on your body are dangerous enough, but when you buy the drug off the street, you don’t always know what you’re putting in your body. Some common ingredients added to heroin to extend the product (and the profits) include sugar, baking soda, cocaine, caffeine, quinine, powdered milk, and fentanyl.

Some of these additives are obviously less dangerous than others, but quinine, fentanyl, and cocaine are extremely dangerous drugs in their own right, and mixing them with heroin can make a cocktail of substances that can have unpredictable results on your body, leading to serious health issues and even death.

If you’re dealing with heroin abuse or addiction, don’t wait for things to get to serious health, legal or social issues. Find out how our understanding of the drug and medically supervised heroin rehab can help jump-start your recovery.