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What Is Heroin Made Of?

Heroin is simply an organic, or plant-derived, compound that combines morphine with acetic acid (vinegar) or acetic anhydride (an acid). It is processed from the same raw gum opium that can produce morphine, codeine, or thebaine. Farmers drain the sap from ripening opium poppies and boil it down into a sticky gum. The gum is treated in a water base with chemicals such as lime, ammonium chloride, activated charcoal, and hydrochloric acid. This causes the morphine to leach out of the gum.

When this product is dry, it is shaped into bricks. The bricks are then sent to other secret laboratories that mix the morphine with acetic anhydride, more activated charcoal, and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). Once again the particles are allowed to settle in water. When the particles have dried, they are treated with hydrochloric acid, producing the heroin hydrochloride that is sold on the streets as a white powder.

Most of the white powder heroin sold in the United States comes from Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The product sold to users is never pure heroin. Instead the heroin is "cut" with a number of other water-soluble substances, including sugar, over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen (Tylenol), TRANQUILIZERS, baking soda, powdered milk, starch, and talcum powder. Some batches of heroin reportedly have been cut with rat poison or laundry detergent. CUTTING reduces the purity of the product and allows the dealer to stretch the supply. It also provides the user with an uncertain dosage that can range from 70 percent heroin to 20 percent heroin.

In Mexico, Central America, and South America, underground growers and chemists produce "tar heroin" that comes to the American BLACK MARKET as a sticky black or brown substance with an odor of vinegar.

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