Wednesday, June 13, 2012

From Opium to Heroin

The conversion of raw opium to pure heroin can be broken down into four parts — purification of raw opium, extraction of morphine from opium, conversion of morphine to heroin base and purification of heroin base and conversion to hydrochloride salt. After step 4, diluents and adulterants may be added either by the manufacturer or by parties further along the distribution chain. 

Purification of Opium
 Raw opium collected from the poppy is placed in an open cooking pot of boiling water. This should dissolve all of the alkaloids in the opium, and allow any solid plant material, to float to the top of the solution. Solid impurities are scooped out or filtered by straining the mixture though cheesecloth or burlap. The liquid is then re-heated over a low flame, evaporating the water to leave behind a thick, dark paste, which is then dried in the sun. The opium left behind has a putty-like consistency and is generally about 20% lighter (20% more pure) than the raw material. 
Extraction of Morphine
  Processed opium is stirred in a large drum of boiling water until it has completely dissolved. Calcium hydroxide is then added to the solution, this has the effect of converting morphine, insoluble in cool water, into the soluble salt, calcium morphenate. When the mixture is cooled, the morphenate remains in solution, while the other chemicals settle to form a brown sludge at the bottom of the container. The calcium morphenate is scooped from the drum and filtered. The filtered solution is re-heated, but not boiled, and ammonium chloride is added. After the solution is cooled, morphine base settles to the bottom of the pot. The solution is then poured off through cloth filters, leaving chunks of morphine base on the cloth, which are set aside to dry further in the sun. 

Conversion of Morphine to Heroin Base
The key chemical used to form heroin is acetic anhydride. Morphine base is mixed with acetic anhydride in a stainless steel/enamel pot. The pot lid is tied or clamped on with a damp towel for a gasket, and the mixture is heated, avoiding boiling. The cooking proceeds for about 5 hours until all the morphine has dissolved. The pot is opened, and the mixture -- now a solution of water, acetic acid, and diacetylmorphine(heroin) -- is allowed to cool. The mixture is allowed to stand for 20 minutes. Activated charcoal is added to absorb solid impurities, which are filtered out repeatedly until the solution is clear. Approximately 2.2 kg of sodium carbonate are then dissolved in hot water and added slowly to the mixture until effervescence stops, precipitating solid heroin base. Heroin base is filtered with a fine cloth, set aside and heated until dry.

Conversion of Heroin Base 
For each kilogram of heroin base , 6.6 liters of of ethyl alcohol, 6.6 liters of ether, and 225mL of concentrated hydrochloric acid are measured out. The base is dissolved by heating with one-third of the alcohol and one half of the acid. Another one-third of the acid is stirred in. Next, the remaining acid is added slowly, until the product is completely converted to the hydrochloride salt.  Once the conversion is complete, the remaining alcohol is stirred in. Then half of the ether is added, and the mixture is allowed to stand for 15 minutes. As soon as crystals begin to form in the solution, the remaining ether is added at once, stirred, and the the vessel is covered. The mixture becomes nearly solid after an hour. It is then filtered, and the solids are collected on clean filter paper. Wrapped in the paper, the solid is dried on a wooden tray, usually over lime rock, and dried in the sun. The fully dried product, heroin hydrochloride, is a fine white powder, ready for packing and shipping.

The tools used for the manufacturing of opium. Photo by: David Mayum

The following photos are from a hidden drug lab that was captured by Afghan national security and coalition forces during a patrol near Musa Qalah, Afghanistan. - LINK
Three drying vats used for heroin production
Slots for 55 gallon drying barrels
A heroin cooking room
Drying barrels used in the production of heroin
Nearly 300 sixtenn-ounce bottles like these of liquid ammonia, an essential heroin manufacturing chemical
120 twenty kilogram bags of ammonium chloride, an essential heroin manufacturing chemical

The following photos show the remnants of a major counter narcotics operation in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, seizing ingredients to make heroin with a US street value up to $200 000 000 by the Afghan National Security and Special Operations Task Group.
Photo set isafmedia on Flickr
Vats, in a narcotics manufacturing facility The barrels and vats are concealed under vegetation trellises.
An opium press
Narcotics manufacturing ingredients and equipment
Metal drums, some filled with morphine solution, used to manufacture heroin - concealed under a canopy of vegetation
Vats and metal drums
Bags of morphine base waiting to be dried
Bags of morphine base before the drying process rest on a bed of lime
Metal drums used for drug processing 

Info from here

For harvesting opium go here
For heroin addiction in Afghanistan go here

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