Since heroin is such a hot topic and is illegal to use in the US. Where does it come from?


I’ve read and heard contradicting information regarding opium and heroin. I don’t understand, where is this drug coming from? I had a life-long friend found dead in alley in Vancouver BC due to an apparent overdose. I’ve never used. I read that opiates may be coming from Afghanistan or from Mexico(primarily). My research doesn’t come up with much; what am I missing? These substances have a genetic imprint, where are they from?

In: Biology

I don’t know about Canada, but “the bulk of heroin consumed in the United States has been traced to Mexico”[(ref)]( ). The Middle East just seems a lot farther away, and shipping costs would tend to favor a closer source.

Opiates are derived from *papaver somniferum*, a breed of poppy. It is possible to artificially synthesize opiates, but the process is complex, so most opiates are still derived from the natural plant sources.

There are plenty of legal uses of opiates as painkilers. Most legal production of poppy / raw opium comes from India, Turkey, and Australia.

Most illegal opiates are smuggled into the US via Mexico (~90%), Asia (~5%) or South American (mainly Columbia, ~5%). That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s grown or even manufactured in those areas — that’s just how it gets into the US. Can’t speak for Canada, but I’d imagine most of the heroin in Canada is coming across the US border.

Although illegal drugs are a huge problem in the US, the growth of prescription drug abuse is potentially a bigger problem. These are prescription drugs, supplied through a licensed pharmacist, either via resale of valid prescriptions, or, more commonly, through unethical doctors and pharmacists. Sadly, many pharmaceutical companies — and arguably Congress and the DEA — are complicit in this crisis. Dollars — whether from lobbying or pill sales — win out over lives. 🙁

From Afghanistan, where production has skyrocketed ever since the US stepped in. Go figure.

Based on your comments you are asking where the poppy plants that will eventually be processed into heroin are grown.

If that is correct then Afghanistan is your answer.

[Afghanistan is the world capital of opium; estimates peg its share of the global opium production at between 75 and 85 percent, with an estimate of nearly 500,000 acres (200,000 ha) under cultivation as of 2016.](

[Also here is an interesting history of Opium that gives more information, note this is coming from the DEA.](