Where Did Heroin Come From?


Heroin today is regarded as a deadly drug which is contributing to the growing number of opioid overdose deaths happening every day in Canada, the US, and other countries around the world. Most people understand that heroin is an illegal drug bought on the black market and primarily comes from either China or Mexico. However, few are aware of the curious history of heroin, like when it was an over the counter drug.


In the late 1800’s, tuberculosis was claiming lives. Heroin, along with other opioids, causes a depression in the respiratory system. For tuberculosis patients who are experiencing an infection in the lungs, the combination of pain relief and ease of breathing was seen as a “wonder drug” for treating the disease. Today, patients are prescribed prescription opioids as painkillers for chronic pain or traumatic injury. Part of the problem contributing to the opioid addiction epidemic is that patients quickly develop a tolerance to the drug and become addicted. Though history is supposed to teach lessons so that it does not repeat itself, the lesson was not learned with opioids. Tuberculosis patients were developing a tolerance for the drug produced by renown pharmacy brand Bayer and becoming addicted.

Where Heroin Actually Comes From

The actual substance of heroin comes from the opium poppy plant. Heroin is a concentrated form of the opium plant, considerably more potent than opium because it metabolizes into pure morphine the minute it hits the bloodstream. Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of heroin, growing large quantities of opium poppies. However, heroin also comes from South America, different parts of Asia, and mexico.

Producing heroin is a semi-chemical process. Heroin is technically “diamorphine” because of the way substance from the natural opium poppy plant is treated with a chemical process. Heroin is rarely “pure” because it is a semi-synthetic drug.   

Heroin Today

Today, heroin frequently contains fentanyl, cocaine, and other harmful drugs in order to cut manufacturer’s costs. Heroin addiction, along with addiction to other opioids, is a widespread issue everywhere heroin can be found. Highly addicting and causing a severe chemical dependency both physical and psychological, people struggle to get sober from heroin. Recovery from heroin is possible with clinical detox and residential treatment.

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