Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: processing and packaging of heroin for retail "street" sale ( Answered 3 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: processing and packaging of heroin for retail "street" sale
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: shere-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 08 Feb 2004 09:30 PST
Expires: 09 Mar 2004 09:30 PST
Question ID: 304711
A citable source (s) for detailed description of the actual processing
and packaging of heroin for retail "street" sales?

Request for Question Clarification by techtor-ga on 09 Feb 2004 09:15 PST
I was able to find sites describing the basic manufacture process of
heroin. Are those acceptable? And do you mean "street" as on the
streets of New York or Chicago, for example?

Clarification of Question by shere-ga on 10 Feb 2004 07:56 PST
I intended the focus of my query to be references to activities in the
United States.
Subject: Re: processing and packaging of heroin for retail "street" sale
Answered By: tutuzdad-ga on 10 Feb 2004 09:44 PST
Rated:3 out of 5 stars
Dear shere-ga;

Thank you for allowing me an opportunity to answer your interesting question.

I have been in law enforcement professionally for more than 20 years,
and during the last several years of my career I have worked as an
evidence technician, taking in, examining, testing and processing
various types of evidence taken from ?the street?. I have, on
thousands of occasions, dealt with narcotics of all types and have
extensive working knowledge as to how these drugs are commonly
packaged for sale, transport, distribution and concealment. With that
in mind, here are some valid and accurate descriptions of how heroin
is often packaged for ?retail sale? on the illicit market:

Black tar heroin is gooey, sticky and generally quite a nasty
substance in both appearance and texture. It is often placed in a
small balloon for consumer sales because of its resin content, which
tends to leach through a paper wrapping. A small portion of the drug
is measured out to the appropriate increment (whatever the dealer
determines) and is laid on the end of a regular party-type balloon
like the kind you?d find in any department store. The balloon is then
turned ?wrong side out? around the small wad of heroin and the balloon
is tied in a knot. This does four things:

It rubber material keeps the drug from ?bleeding out?, or wasting away.

It provides the dealer a means of quickly disposing of the drug if
confronted by the police because he can simply swallow it without
causing himself a great deal of harm (provided they don?t break of

It makes the portion of heroin look a bit larger than what it really is. 

It will make the drug less likely to be detected by a trained police
dog (I also trained police drug and protection dogs for about 5


Powdered heroin, or ground heroin looks like this:

It is packaged in a variety of ways:

Small plastic baggies called ?bags? or ?sacks?:

It is often packaged in small bags, cellophane wrappers (like the kind
found on a cigarette pack) or wrapped in aluminum foil. These are
called ?bindles?:

It can be compressed into cylinder-like chunks called ?rocks? or ?tubes?:

It can be placed into condoms, also called ?tubes? or ?rubbers?:

Seen less commonly is heroin drawn up as a dose, called a ?hit?:
(This is usually for personal use only, but apt to be sold in this
manner on the spur of the moment by a user/dealer if the opportunity
arises or becomes necessary to make a few bucks)

For bulk sale, heroin is often seen as a ?bundle. This is usually a
dozen or so large plastic freezer-type bags bound together with a
large rubber band and then wrapped in some kind of concealment like
plastic, burlap or paper or duct tape.

An even larger quantity is called a ?brick? and it often consists of
about 50 bags bound in the same manner. A still larger quantity is
referred to as a ?sleeve? and usually consists of about 250 bags. In
New England these are sometimes found, oddly enough, wrapped in
telephone book pages (presumably to offset the brown color which
indicates impurity ? the browner it is the more impurities and cutting
agents are in it and the yellow paper helps to conceal this).

Here you will see some excellent examples of how heroin in packaged
for sale, distribution and transport on both large and small scale:


Other forms of packaging seen in the US that I have seen include:

Surgical gloves or the snipped-off the fingers of surgical gloves

Candy bar wrappers (particularly the kind that have aluminum inserts)

Aluminum cigarette pack inserts

Cigarette pack cellophane 

Newspaper or book pages (used mainly for powder ? folded over and over
to eventually form a small triangle-shaped envelope)

Tissue paper (usually a novice)

Folded paper (used for powder mainly ? folded in a kind of rectangular
homemade envelope so that it sort of resembles a dose of BC Powder)

Capsules (exclusively for heroin in a finely ground powder form)

As for the processing of the drug, I can?t go into as great a detail
about it as I would like to since our policy prohibits us from putting
on line any description of an illegal activity that would actually
enable someone to commit that act. But I can generalize:

Black tar heroin is produced only in Mexico. As you may know, heroin
comes from the opium poppy. There is an egg-shaped seed pond
underneath the petals of the poppy bloom that exudes a sticky sap-like
substance when it is cut open. Farmers will slice into the pod and
allow the sap to run down the stem and catch it over time. When
exposed to air it becomes a gummy tar-like material. This gum is then
refined into morphine by mixing it with lime in boiling water. The
organic wastes materials sink to the bottom, and a white frothy band
of material forms on the top. This is morphine, which is then skimmed
off, filtered, and boiled down into a brown paste. The workers then
pour the new substance into molds and allow it to dry in the sun where
it turns into the consistency of modeling clay. The finished product
is called ?morphine base? and can be smoked in a pipe at this stage,
or subjected to further refinement into heroin.

To make heroin the morphine base is boiled with acetic anhydride, and
then subjected to a number of various purification steps. The fourth
and final step of purification involves ether and hydrochloric acid,
which can cause enormous explosions when handled improperly. The end
result is a fluffy, white powder referred to on the illicit market as
?number four heroin?. Once in the US the more potent drug can be ?cut?
(diluted) with a number of inert agents to make it more voluminous
thus getting more for ones money. Dealers sometimes use baby aspirin,
powdered milk, and variety of other clean white powdered consumables
to stretch the quantity of the drug in an effort to make more money.

I hope you find that my research exceeds your expectations. If you
have any questions about my research please post a clarification
request prior to rating the answer. Otherwise I welcome your rating
and your final comments and I look forward to working with you again
in the near future. Thank you for bringing your question to us.

Best regards;
Tutuzdad-ga ? Google Answers Researcher











Google ://


Heroin, bindles, bricks, sleeves, packages, ?wrapped in?, ?number four
heroin?, processing, ?tar heroin?, ?black tar?

Request for Answer Clarification by shere-ga on 11 Feb 2004 11:29 PST
Dear tutuzdad:  Thank you for your response but what I need is a
description of the actual processing.  I am aware of the packages and
the contents and I've seen the photographs from the DEA site.  What I
need to know is how do they actually put it into the glassine
paper--any automated means etc?

Clarification of Answer by tutuzdad-ga on 11 Feb 2004 12:35 PST
Dear shere-ga;

Glassine paper (commonly called Weighing Paper) is a very effective
method of packaging heroin since the waxy material is moisture and
grease resistant. This packaging practice was first seen, and
continues to be used primarily in the New England are of the United
States but the trend has reached many area of the US. Like many high
profile drug vendors, heroin suppliers actually take a certain among
of pride in their product, occasionally stamping, branding or marking
their wares so their illegal consumers can readily identify it?s
indirect source. This assures return business. The packing method,
color of packing materials, or wrapping technique often serves as its
own trademark.

?The item was later determined to be heroin, packaged in ten glassine
bags, held together by a rubber band, with each packet bearing a
brand-name stamp, "Eagle."?

As you know, heroin in its bulk form is produced outside the United
States, but it is not uncommon for the bulk to arrive via air and
seaports to be ?milled? in the US. That is to say that it arrives here
and is then cut with diluents such as lactose, mannitol or caffeine
and packaged for retail sale. Astonishingly, using this method, one
kilogram of nearly 100 percent pure heroin can be cut and divided into
approximately 30,000 individual glassine bags.

?Heroin is generally packaged in paper bindles, glassine envelopes,
and small balloons. The heroin is funneled into the bottom of the
balloon that is then securely tied. The tied end containing the heroin
is folded back into the mouth of the balloon for added protection.
Powdered heroin is also packaged in folded aluminum foil envelopes.
Due to a sticky consistency, tar heroin is normally packaged in
cellophane or aluminum foil.?

In my experience most dose-size glassine bag are about the size of a
postage stamp. Usually a vendor/dealer will measure out about 1/20th
to 1/10th of a gram of the drug on a scale (digital, beam or hand
held) and scrape or ?scoop? the drug directly from the weighing device
into the glassine container. (I've seen them use a matchbook cover,
razor blade or knife to do this with). This process is not at all
sanitary and cleanliness is rarely, if ever, an issue:

?In Baltimore, capsules of heroin intended for injectors sell for
$6-10 and purity can be as low as 10 percent. However, higher purity
heroin (70-90% pure) is also available, sold in glassine bags (50 mg)
for $50 and marketed for snorting.?


?On the street, powdered heroin is usually sold in glassine bags
weighing about 100mg or 1/10th of one gram. Black tar heroin is sold
by the gram weight. The purity of street heroin has skyrocketed in the
last twenty years. In 1980 the average bag of street heroin was 4%
pure; the average street bag today is 34% pure and can be as pure as

With powdered heroin of course, respiratory protection is often
necessary to keep those preparing the drug from overdosing by
ingesting the residual powder that might contaminate the air:

?Brantley went upstairs to the bathroom where Daniel Burch, wearing a
gas mask and gloves, was using a scale to measure ounce portions of
heroin from a plastic bag for transfer to small plastic bags. Brantley
held the plastic bags over the scale.?


Here is a fairly accurate description of how heroin in placed into
capsules. This is fiction but I found it to be quite accurate. Whoever
wrote this knew what they were talking about. Begin with this

?Mike's got a cookie tray on the counter with a layer of tin foil on
it. On top of the foil is a plastic grid with about 50 shallow holes.
He's also got metal mixing bowl, a few measuring spoons, and a bag or
two of white powder.?

I hope this adds form informative value to my earlier post. I look
forward to your rating and final comments.





shere-ga rated this answer:3 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: processing and packaging of heroin for retail "street" sale
From: tanya1-ga on 10 Feb 2004 06:39 PST
I found reference to a monograph: 'Understanding and responding to
drug use: the role of qualitative research', produced by the European
Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, 2000. It has a section
on 'Drug Markets' with chapters by researchers in the Netherlands,
France, Italy, Denmark and the UK. These include a chapter by Peter
Blanken, Cas Batrendregt and Linda Zuidmulder, on retail dealing of
heroin and cocaine in Rotterdam; a chapter by Letizia Paoli of Italy,
on how to evaluate police reports and judicial documents about the
drug supply system; and a chapter by Mark Gilman on how policing
methods have shaped the new street markets in Manchester.
You can find a detailed abstract of this monograph at

You might also try:
The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice 
Vol. 42 Issue 4 Page 324 September 2003 
Drug Supply and Trafficking: An Overview 
Deborah Browne, Mark Mason, Rachel Murphy

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy