Follow this dangerous drug as it begins in a remote Afghan heroin lab and witness a police raid on a heroin distribution network. Heroin, also known as diamorphine, is an opioid analgesic synthesized by C.R Alder Wright in 1874 by adding two acetyl groups to the molecule morphine, a derivative of the opium poppy. When used in medicine it is typically used to treat severe pain, such as that resulting from a heart attack.
It is the 3,6-diacetyl ester of morphine, and functions as a morphine prodrug (meaning that it is metabolically converted to morphine inside the body). The white crystalline form considered “pure heroin” is usually the hydrochloride salt, diacetylmorphine hydrochloride.
When heroin is supplied illegally, though, it is often adulterated to a freebase form, dulling the sheen and consistency to a matte-white powder. As of 2004, roughly 87% of the world supply of opium and its derivatives, including heroin, was thought to be produced in Afghanistan. However, production in Mexico has risen six-fold from 2007 to 2011, changing that percentage and placing Mexico as the second largest opium producer in the world.
As with other opioids, diacetylmorphine is used as both an analgesic and a recreational drug. Frequent and regular administration is associated with tolerance and physical dependence, which may develop into addiction.