The Dangers of Heroin Purity

Published by John Gillen | Last updated: 16th January 2023

‘Heroin’ is the street name of an opiate officially known as diamorphine. Heroin is classed as a depressant. Heroin is derived from the opiate poppy and was first synthesised in 1874.

In this informative post, we discuss the dangers of heroin purity.

Heroin is highly addictive and continued use leads to a ‘tolerance’ to the drug. This ‘tolerance’ protects users from overdosing. However, heroin purity differs from batch to batch, given illicit drugs are not subject to ‘quality control’. This means users are never sure whether their tolerance will protect them from one particular batch to another. Users never know if they’re about to inject heroin at 90% purity or 20% purity. If the user’s body has before only built up a tolerance to heroin with a 20% purity, heroin with 90% purity is highly likely to lead to overdose and even death.

Street heroin: a purity lottery

When you buy illicit ‘street’ heroin, you cannot be certain of its purity. This makes street heroin inherently dangerous. When you consume street heroin you literally place your life in the hands of amateur chemists and drug dealers who are likewise unsure of how lethal their ‘product’ may be.

Since the production of heroin is unregulated and illegal, there is no ‘quality control’ carried out when the product is produced. Worst still, the product must pass through a ‘distribution network’ before it hits your veins. This distribution network is made up of various criminal gangs, all of whom are out to make a profit. This means your heroin is altered whilst it passed through this intricate criminal network. Diluting heroin maximised the profit made by dealers since you the buyer won’t know the difference between unadulterated pure heroin and a batch that’s been laced with other substances. Substances added to dilute heroin are referred to as ‘diluents’ whilst substances added to enhance the effects of heroin as known as ‘adulterants’.

How heroin is tampered with

Heroin may be tampered with in several ways. For instance, heroin may be mixed with baking powder, opiate alkaloids, paracetamol or sugars such as mannitol, glucose or lactose. Heroin may also contain substances such as chalk. Chalk does not dissolve in the bloodstream. This means chalk is capable of clogging up veins and arteries throughout your body. Heroin has also been cut with toxins such as Strychnine, brick dust and even rat poison, although this is rare.

The dangers of purer heroin

However, by far the bigger risk is injected heroin that’s more powerful than your body is used to. Research reveals a powerful link between heroin purity and overdose. Simply put, the purer the heroin you consume, the greater the risk of overdose and death as a result of taking that heroin.

Factors affecting the purity of heroin

The purity of heroin you receive is also determined by where you live, and also the particular dealer or manufacturer who currently rules the distribution channels. Given heroin trade is illegal, the industry’s ‘top dogs’ frequently rise and fall. Some dealers may wish to pump out purer heroin in order to build up their standing with ‘repeat customers’, whilst other dealers may prefer to dilute their product in order to make more money ‘on the front end’.

The purity of heroin is also subject to the political stability of countries where it is produced. For instance, according to a UN report, the demise of the Taliban in Afghanistan has led to an increase in the farming of the opiate poppy. This has led to an increase in the purity of UK street heroin. This has also driven down the price for street heroin as supply continues to outstrip demand.

Data relating to the purity of UK heroin

Studies reveal the average purity of UK street heroin is around 30%. The other 70% typically consists of sugar, chalk, paracetamol and opiate alkaloids.

Since 2013, heroin-related deaths have increased by 60%. Figures for 2015 are now at an all-time high. In 2014, a shocking 952 people died due to a heroin overdose. This compares to just 579 deaths in 2012.

Experts blame the increase in heroin-related deaths on an increase in the purity of street heroin following the ‘heroin drought’ that existed before 2014.

Getting help for heroin addiction

If you are addicted to heroin or other opiates, then Cassiobury Court is able to offer you a month-long heroin detox in London. Contact us on 01923 369 161 or fill out our contact form.



John Gillen

John Gillen - Author Last updated: 16th January 2023

John Gillen is a leading addiction treatment expert with over 15 years of experience providing evidence-based treatment methods for individuals throughout the UK. John also co-authors the book, The Secret Disease of Addiction, which delves into how the addictive mind works and what treatment techniques work best.