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Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Home made heroin

I read that it will soon become possible to brew your own heroin.

Interesting. I wonder what the effects of that will be?

It's always been possible to brew your own beer; I used to buy beer kits in Boots; a couple of pounds and a couple of weeks would give me five gallons of excellent bottled beer; stout, bitter, mild and a very low-alcohol ginger beer. It's easy and it's safe - the worst that can happen is that it tastes vinegary. Ditto wine; again, I'd buy a wine kit from Boots and that would make me a gallon of decent bottled wine. I used to take a couple of quarts with me to the allottment, put them in a bucket of cold water, and spend a pleasant afternoon digging and drinking.

What was the effect of this? Well, it was a lot cheaper for me, and a huge loss of revenue to the treasury, because whereas the tax on beer and wine is huge, the tax on ingredients is tiny. Or maybe even none, if it's classified as food. The quality was excellent - if a batch turned out badly, I would just shrug and throw it away, but that only happened once. The key is, I think, good hygene, which means, wash the brewing bucket carefully, and keep a lid on it. I probably drank a bit more beer than I would have, a few quarts per week, but I doubt if that did me serious harm.

So what would be the effect of home-brew heroin?

According to the article, you use a modified form of sugar-fed yeast. Yeast breeds; yeast makes more yeast. You don't ever have to run out of yeast. Once you have your first batch of modified yeast, you don't need to buy more. And sugar is cheap. I would guess that it's like making beer, except you don't need hops or malt. My guess is, you'd take a five gallon bucket, dissolve sugar in water, add the modified yeast, and wait a week or two. Then there would probably have to be some way of concentrating it, or maybe you'd drink it as is - I don't know, and I haven't researched it, because I don't plan to go that route. I don't even brew beer these days.

So it looks like it would be pretty easy to do. The main bought-in ingredient would be sugar, available in any supermarket. And cheap.

The existing suppliers of heroin would be the first losers. The poppy farms of Afghanistan, the heroin smugglers and the drug pushers, and I doubt if many people would feel much sympathy for them. The price of heroin would collapse. Brewed beer costs a few pennies per pint; bought beer costs a few pounds per pint. The cost is about 99% less, and I'd guess that the same would happen to heroin.

But what about the users? I can't see Western governments legalising heroin (although several years ago, I would have bet against any American state legalising marijuana, and now it's happened). But it would be easier and cheaper for users to get heroin, and that, I think, would lead to an increased use of the drug. And that, probably, is bad.

Probably? Why only "probably"? Heroin kills!

But so does tobacco. And it's only very recently that there has been a major attempt to discourage the use of tobacco; the argument is that "adults have the right to choose". If you, as an adult, knowing the harms that tobacco can do, nevertheless choose to risk those harms for the rewards that you get from tobacco, then it's your right to choose. Even though tobacco is obviously, and well known to be, addictive (and if you don't believe that, ask any smoker). Isn't the same thing true for heroin?

Clearly, children need to be protected, because they aren't old enough to make this sort of decision, and if children become addicted to tobacco (or heroin), that's very bad.

So what's going to happen?

If a yeast is modified to become heroin-producing, it won't be possible to stop it getting into public hands, even if it's made illegal to possess it. And the yeast will be made, on the principle that if something can be done then it will be done. And it will get out there; people will be able to brew heroin-infused beer.

I'll stick to the old-fashioned kind.

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