Where Does Heroin Come From?

There are many commonly asked question about heroin, including, “Where does heroin come from?” and “What is heroin made from?” and, “What does heroin look like?”

People often ask these questions 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., with heroin and other dangerous drugs at the forefront.

Oftentimes people are prescribed opioids like oxycodone and they develop a tolerance to these drugs. They then become dependent on these drugs and ultimately addicted to them, which causes drug-seeking behaviors. These behaviors can include turning to other alternatives, including street drugs like heroin.

Heroin is an opioid that’s extremely addictive, relatively easy to get, and the substance that many people who are addicted to opioids struggle with. 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 does it come 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.

The people most impacted by heroin use seem to be young adults who are aged 18 to 25, but they’re certainly not alone. 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 report that heroin is one of the most significant drugs affecting them and the consequences are staggering for 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 4 percent of U.S. heroin is from Afghanistan.

Pure heroin (which is a white or off-white and bitter powder) found in U.S. markets usually comes from South America. This heroin is most often found in the areas east of the Mississippi River. Black tar heroin is usually produced in Mexico and sold in markets to the west of the Mississippi. The reason that this kind of heroin is so dark in color is the result of the crude processing that happens in Mexico, which leaves impurities in the drug.

A small percentage of heroin may come from Afghanistan and countries in Southeast Asia 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. Some forms of heroin are starting to come to the U.S. through Canada, 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 that the U.S. has in terms of the actual consumption of the drug.

So, the answer to “Where does heroin come from?” is that heroin in the U.S. comes from three primary places: Mexico, South America and Afghanistan primarily.

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

No matter where heroin comes from or how it’s made, it remains a dangerously addictive substance. If you or someone you know is addicted to heroin, help is available. Contact The Recovery Village to learn more about heroin treatment or to begin a lifelong journey toward recovery.  

Where Does Heroin Come From?
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