Purifying Heroin Again
[Editor's Note: The following method for purifying street heroin comes to us from a once infamous clandestine heroin chemist who has "gone straight". He has asked to remain anonymous for obvious reasons. He also asked that we be very clear that this recipe explains a serious chemical process with the resulting risks: (1) accidents made during process could cause harm in the form of explosions, toxic vapors, and unknown other threats to the safety of the would-be chemist and those in close proximity; (2) even if performed exactly as written, this recipe will not increase the quantity, only the quality of what was already there; (3) the very act of using this recipe breaks drug manufacturing laws (along with many others besides) that can result in multi-year prison sentences and even death as punishment. The recipe is provided for educational purposes only--and as such, it will likely be quite useful to students of beginning organic chemistry.]
I was curious about the procedure for cleaning street heroin [that is on your site: Purifying Heroin]. Most of my practical laboratory experience was with various opiates, street, pharmaceutical or self made, so this is definitely something that I know about. In fact I purified some street heroin for a friend of mine one day. It requires only a little knowledge of basic organic extraction technique.
This is what I did:
- Dissolve the street heroin in water.
- Use the easily available Hydrion pH papers to monitor the pH during this procedure. Add Sodium Hydroxide in solution dropwise while checking the pH. Use a narrow glass or plastic rod to touch a minimum of the drug solution to the paper to avoid loss. Stop when the pH reaches about 9.
- Extract with chloroform. Chloroform is far superior to diethyl ether in that it is non-flammable and does not present storage problems, where explosive peroxides can be formed. Note: Chloroform is an ideal solvent for heroin, codeine, and most other opiates, with the major exception of morphine which requires a mixed solvent.
- Separate the chloroform layer and wash with a minimum quantity of cold water: 1-2 ml works well. Evaporate the chloroform taking care not to burn the residue on the bottom of the beaker. Note: Chloroform is a known carcinogen, so plenty of ventilation (and a respirator) would be advisable. The chloroform is so volatile that this step is actually quite easy to perform.
- Add a dilute solution of HCl dropwise while stirring with a glass rod. Monitor the pH closely. As the acid is being added, the diacetyl morphine base is being neutralized and converted into the water-soluble hydrochloride salt form.
- When all the solid material has just dissolved, stop adding the HCl. I found that this takes place around pH 5-6. Note: If one tries to bring the pH all of the way up to 7, the free base alkaloid precipitates back out requiring addition of more HCl.
- The resulting solution will be in an injectable form; it will now be completely clear with no colored impurities or particulate matter.
Having clarified this procedure, I would hope that nobody would actually attempt it. To an experienced chemist this is all so routine that you could do it blindfolded. But I noticed that even the college students in my Organic lab class, who had no prior organic chemistry experience, were remarkably clueless around a separatory funnel the first time. This is to say that what is trivial in the hands of an experienced chemist will likely be unusable (at best) and dangerous (at worst) in the hands of an amateur. This chemistry isn't to be played with.