After a day long interview with a poppy farmer in southern Afghanistan, the investigative reporter was handed four poppy pods from the farmer as a 'gift'; when he handed the pods to the reporter, the farmer said: "This is a gift of love from me; a kiss of death for you."
Poppy pods procured from Kandahar City. They were lanced six times each, indicating a slightly above average extraction of raw opium.
Photo by Matt Dupee.
Photo by Matt Dupee.
Acetic Anhydride: Chemical Precursor in the Production of Heroin
In 1874, Charles Romley Alder Wright was an English chemistry and physics researcher at St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London and was the first person to synthesize heroin from morphine. Over the intervening years since 1874, the production of acetic anhydride as a chemical precursor, has also simultaneously increased to meet the demands of the production of heroin estimated in Afghanistan alone in 2006 to be at five-hundred and eighty-two metric tons. Heroin production increased sharply following the defeat of the Taliban, from 2001 (seven metric tons) to 2006 (five-hundred and eighty-two metric tons in Afghanistan out of a worldwide total estimated production of six-hundred and thirty-two metric tons).
At the time of his discovery, Charles Wright was experimenting with ways to come up with a non-addictive alternative to morphine; he had been experimenting with combining morphine with various acids. In his laboratory, Wright discovered that by boiling anhydrous morphine alkaloid with acetic anhydride over a stove for several hours, he could produce a potent acetylated form of morphine, now called diacetylmorphine, also known as heroin. Morphine, one of many alkaloids in opium, is then extracted out of the opium by precipitation and turned into heroin by heating it with acetic anhydride for several hours. As of 2011, Afghanistan is where the largest production in the world of diacetylmorphine is manufactured in secret labs dotting the rugged landscape.
Acetic anhydride (IUPAC)
Acetic anhydride, or ethanoic anhydride, is the chemical compound with the formula (CH3CO)2O. Commonly abbreviated Ac2O, it is the simplest isolatable acid anhydride and is a widely used reagent in organic synthesis. It is a colorless liquid that smells strongly of acetic acid, formed by its reaction with the moisture in the air.Formic anhydride is an even simpler acid anhydride, but it spontaneously decomposes, especially once removed from solution. This is why acetic anhydride is the preferred chemical component in the production of heroin in countless drug laboratories all across Afghanistan where heroin is produced after the resin from poppy pods has been collected and shipped to labs in wafers.
The resin is allowed to dry and then is scraped off the pods in a very laborious process. It is then formed into 'wafers' and then sent on to heroin producing labs.
Chemical Description of Heroin:
Heroin (diacetylmorphine (INN)), also known as diamorphine (BAN), is a semi-synthetic opioid drug synthesized from morphine, a derivative of the opium poppy. It is the 3,6-diacetyl ester of morphine (di (two)-acetyl-morphine). The white crystalline form is commonly the hydrochloride salt diacetylmorphine hydrochloride, though often adulterated thus dulling the sheen and consistency from that to a matte white powder, which diacetylmorphine freebase typically is. 90% of diacetylmorphine is thought to be produced in Afghanistan.