How is Heroin Made? (Ingredients, History, & More)

Medically Reviewed

We often hear the term opioid drugs, prescription opioids, heroin, and many ways to describe a drug that has swept the nation. It’s hard to go a day without hearing about the current opioid crisis, which kills more than 130 Americans every day. For those who use these drugs or work the industry that treats addiction, it’s jargon that is familiar, but for some, we may not know the precise origin of heroin or what it’s made of.

Whether it’s heroin, morphine, Vicodin, or OxyContin, all of these drugs are derivatives of a single plant – the opium poppy. The history of the opium poppy stretches back to the beginning of known human civilization, and the use of opium can be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia.

The narcotic substance has been used for its medicinal properties, as well as recreationally for centuries. An opium derivative, such as morphine, has been widely used as a pain reliever since the 1800s. The extremely addictive substance, heroin, was also used medicinally before physicians were familiar with how addictive the drug could be.

Fast forward over a hundred years, and we see the destructive nature of heroin and synthetic opioids on our society. The drug has come a long way since it was used by physicians to treat pain and other ailments, but it continues to cause havoc and decimate a generation of individuals who participate in its use.

What is Heroin?

Heroin is an opioid drug that was discovered because of morphine, which is a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants. These plants grow freely in select places in the world, such as Colombia, Mexico, Southeast Asia, as well as Southwest Asia. Climate has a lot to do with how these plants grow, and they thrive in temperate climates. While it’s rare, there are places in the United States where poppy plants can grow.

Heroin can take place in many forms, and it can be a white or brown powder, or a black sticky substance, which is known as black tar heroin. Some familiar names of the drug are known as smack, hell dust, horse, or big H.

How is Heroin Made?

According to, heroin comes from gum of the opium poppy. The flowers are not complicated to grow on your own; however, it really depends on the climate in which they are raised that determines if they will blossom.

Papaver somniferum plants are the same ones that poppy seeds come from, and these are legal and widely available. In fact, you can even find them on your poppy seed bagels. Growing the seeds puts individuals in a legal gray area because it is on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) list of Schedule II drugs, which means that the DEA could press charges against anyone growing these in their backyard.

The processing of heroin is not tricky, but it does require more labor than growing and harvesting marijuana. The person that is making heroin must use a razor blade to slice the bulb under the poppy early on and wait all day for the drops of thick, white opium gum to escape. The gum is then scraped and processed with water and solvents to extract a morphine solution. There are other chemicals required as well to precipitate solid morphine out of this liquid state.

Common Heroin Adulterants

Heroin is commonly cut to increase profits for drug dealers, and the substances they use are easily mixed in without being detected. Unfortunately, not much thought comes into how this is going to harm the user, and drug dealers can potentially kill the user if the wrong adulterants are added.

Dealers seek cheap substances that contain similar smoking and boiling points as the drug. It will ensure that the adulterants mix well, and the heroin can still be consumed as intended. A majority of the heroin found on the street is cut, and you will rarely find pure substances on the street.

Much of the heroin today is cut with the synthetic opioid fentanyl, which is a drug that can be 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin. Those with a lower tolerance to opioids may mistakenly use a hefty dose of what they suspect is heroin, and overdose instantly. It can lead to death.

Other cuts, while less toxic than fentanyl, can still cause adverse effects if the drug is administered intravenously and cause damage in our body. Some of these cuts include:

  • Flour
  • Chalk
  • Caffeine
  • Talcum powder
  • Sucrose
  • Starch
  • Powdered milk

If you or someone you know has been using heroin for an extended period, it’s possible they’ve done extensive damage to their body. While heroin itself is dangerous, the cuts in the drug are what cause the most damage to our body. It’s imperative that you or someone you know seeks treatment immediately to free yourself from active addiction.

We know that overcoming an addiction can be challenging, but if you are ready to open your life to a new challenge, we are prepared to show you the light.


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