Where Does Heroin Come From?

There are a lot of questions have about heroin including “where does heroin come from,” “what is heroin made from,” and “what does heroin look like.”

There are reasons people have these questions, and it’s often because they worry that someone they know may be abusing this dangerous, powerful and often deadly drug. An opioid epidemic is gripping the U.S., and heroin is an opioid.

What happens frequently is that people start with prescription opioids like oxycodone, and they develop a tolerance to these drugs. They then become dependent and ultimately addicted, which leads them to drug seeking behaviors. That can quickly lead down the path of heroin use.

Heroin is an opioid that’s extremely addictive, relatively easy to get, and the drug of choice for many opioid addicts. There are also tens of millions of Americans who consume illicit drugs every year, so how are they getting them? If heroin is illegal, where is it coming from? How is it so readily available in the streets of America, from inner cities to suburban neighborhoods?

So where does it originate? Where does heroin come from?

Where Does Heroin Come From?
Before looking at the question “where does heroin come from,” it’s useful to have an overview of just how pervasive heroin use is in America. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 670,000 Americans reported using heroin in 2015. That number is probably significantly higher now, as the use of this drug continues to rise.

The people most impacted seem to be young adults who are aged 18 to 25, but they’re certainly not alone.

As the use of heroin continues to go up, people feeling the health effects of the drug do as well. For example, the people who meet the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ criteria for abuse or dependence of heroin doubled in the period from 2002 to 2012.

Many local areas across the country say heroin is one of the most significant drugs affecting them, and the consequences are staggering for so many communities.

So, where does heroin come from?

There are a few different answers, and some of the heroin in the U.S. comes from domestic sources, while other supplies come from countries around the world.

South America and Mexico drive much of the availability of heroin in the U.S. Around 90 percent of heroin in the world originates in Afghanistan, but only around four percent of U.S. heroin is from Afghanistan.

Pure heroin, which is a white or off-white, bitter powder, usually comes from South America in U.S. markets. This heroin is most often found in the areas east of the Mississippi River. Black tar heroin, on the other hand, is usually produced in Mexico and sold in markets to the west of the Mississippi. The reason it’s so dark is the result of the crude processing that happens in Mexico, leaving impurities in the drug.

A small percentage of heroin can come from Afghanistan as mentioned, and other Southeast Asian countries, but this has been on the rise recently, and drug enforcement professionals believe that Afghanistan heroin producers have made more distribution in the U.S. a goal. A lot of heroin is starting to come in through Canada, and then moving into the U.S. as well.

While Mexico remains one of the primary suppliers of heroin to the U.S. the country doesn’t have the kind of drug problem the U.S. has in terms of the population actually consuming the drug.

Heroin is made by taking the opium poppy and extracting a milky substance from it This raw opium can be made into morphine, and then from morphine heroin can be made through a chemical reaction with something called acetic anhydride. Heroin can be purified through various means as well.

So, to wrap up the answer to where does heroin come from is three primary places: Mexico, South America, and Afghanistan primarily.

Where Does Heroin Come From?
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