Heroin’s journey from a plant to a street drug begins with the planting of an opium poppy seed. The botanical name for this plant is Papaver somniferum. It grows best in a climate that is warm and dry; it is also a common export from Latin America and Asia.
Approximately three months after being planted, tubular stems with flowers at the tip blooms; this is where the poppy seeds lie. These stems are green and the flowers have bright colors. At this time, the petals will slowly fall away; this exposes a seed pod that is egg-shaped. This pod contains sap that is milky and opaque. This sap is opium in its most basic form.
The sap is removed from the pod by making vertical cuts in parallel strokes using a curved knife. The sap oozes out from the cuts on the pod. It then turns dark and thick. The sap forms into a gum that is black. A farmer will then carefully collect the gum with a knife designed to scrape it. The gum is then formed into bundles the size of bricks. It can also be made into cakes or balls. These are then wrapped with basic materials such as paper or leaves.
The opium in the gum form is sold to a broker. This person will take the packages to a refinery. These refineries are often hidden near the poppy fields, which are usually a shabby laboratory containing oil drums. The opium is placed in boiling water with lime. Organic waste matter sinks to the bottom during this process. On the surface of the water, a white band of morphine begins to form. This morphine is removed and then heated again with ammonia. It is then filtered and boiled another time until the morphine becomes a brown paste. This is put into molds and then dried in the sun. It is then like modeling clay. This substance is now morphine.
This is the most dangerous part of creating Heroin. The molds of brown paste are mixed with an acetic acid and heated to 85 degrees for two hours. During this step, the morphine dissolves. As the mixture cools, the morphine and acid chemically bond. The end result is Heroin that is approximately 75 percent pure. The final product is a fluffy, white powder. It is known by those who are in the illegal drug trade as Number Four Heroin. The process of making Heroin from opium is not complicated and it can be done at any location in the world.
International Heroin Market
All of the Heroin consumed in the United States comes from foreign sources. Major Heroin production happens in three major areas around the world. They are Latin America, Southeast Asia and Southwest Asia. The world leader in supplying opium is Afghanistan. According to the United Nations, Latin America has emerged as the world leader in Heroin production. A vast amount of the opium converted into Heroin is sold in North America, Europe, China and Central Asia. In the United States, Heroin supplied from Mexico dominates west of the Mississippi. The Heroin sold east of the Mississippi usually comes from Columbia.
Opium production around the world has risen steadily since the 1980s. There is now a greater amount of Heroin available with a higher level of purity and a lower price. In the United States, it is estimated that there are approximately 2 million people who use Heroin. Over 700,000 are classified as hardcore addicts. The higher level of purity in the Heroin market makes it possible to be smoked or snorted. This is attractive to many users who do not want to inject drugs into their body.
Anyone who feels that they or a loved one is addicted to Heroin needs to seek treatment immediately. There are a number of effective treatments available, which include pharmacological as well as behavioral treatments.