Heroin is a semi-synthetic opioid derived from morphine, which itself, is made from the Papaver somniferum or opium poppy. It was first created in the late 1800s, and the first instances of heroin abuse and addiction were recorded as early as the 1910s. From there, it experienced its first heyday in the 1970s where drug use was widespread in urban cities. After a short-lived decline, thisopioid has since undergone a resurgence, ushering the second wave of the U.S. opioid crisis in the 2010s. Despite how pervasive heroin’s presence has been within the United States, this substance isn’t produced here. So where does heroin come from then?
Heroin’s International Sources
The current U.S. heroin supply comes from places where opium poppies – the basis for all opiates and “natural” opioid derivatives – grow naturally. Prior to the 1980s, this supply was fueled by a number of different countries in Asia and Latin America. Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar were the most prominent, and Mexico was only a minor player.
Since then, the drug supplier landscape has changed drastically with Colombia and Mexico, responsible for the bulk amount of heroin that enters the country. Together, the two countries account for an estimated 98% of the heroin in the U.S market. However, that’s not to say that those other countries have ceased their production of this opioid. Afghanistan and Pakistan now supply the European market, while Asian poppies are routed to Australia and Canada.
Regional Heroin Suppliers in the United States
To break down the United State’s heroin sources even further, government studies have shown that Mexican and Colombian distributors have distinct distribution patterns. That which is distributed in the eastern part of the U.S. comes from Colombian dealers while the western part of the country is almost exclusively serviced by Mexico.
Where Different Types of Heroin Come From
Heroin can be found in two different source types: powder or a sticky paste. There are many variations of characteristics like texture, water solubility, heat stability, pH balance, color, and purity. Interestingly, many of these variations are geographically based as not all countries refine the opium poppy to the same extent. The level of refinement or “state” will significantly affect how it can be used.
There are two types of powdered heroin: white and brown. White heroin is type-4, formally known as heroin HCL. It is the most refined and therefore has the highest purity. Coloration can vary depending on the processing method and range from a light pink to a beige. White heroin primarily comes from Colombia and Southeast Asia. Both have low acidity and high water solubility.
Brown heroin (type 3) is less refined and tends to come from Southwest Asia. This is opium that has not undergone the full process and tends to be coarse in texture and less potent. This type of heroin has poor solubility, making it unfit for injection and more commonly smoked by users.
Black Tar Heroin
Black tar heroin is the least potent among the variations. It’s faster, cheaper, and cruder than the traditional method, and almost exclusively comes from Mexico. It is the only solid form of heroin and derived from a completely different processing method as the powdered type-3 and type-4 compounds. Due to its high acidity, black tar heroin is rarely smoked and is primarily used via injection.
It’s Deadly, No Matter Where Heroin Comes From
While this highly addictive opioid is inherently hazardous on its own, there’s one particular aspect that makes it even more dangerous. Heroin is notorious for being adulterated or “cut” with substances to reduce its purity. Some are relatively tame everyday household items like sugar, flour, baking soda, or talcum powder (although they still can be harmful when snorted or injected). Other additives like rat poison, laundry detergent, crushed OTC painkillers, or even fentanyl are much more sinister and can immediately cause life-threatening danger amongst users.
There is no “safe” way to use heroin and the danger of unknown additives makes using this drug in any form a highly risky endeavor. If you’re struggling with a heroin addiction, getting help might just save your life. Contact the Amethyst Recovery Center in beautiful sunny Florida to see how we can help you.