Purple Heroin, Explained

February 7, 2022

3 mins

Dane O'Leary


Over the past couple of years, we've seen a new substance called purple heroin emerging. What is purple heroin? Why is it so dangerous? Let's find out.

Authorities are blaming a killer drug called “purple heroin” for several deaths around the country over the past couple of years. It would seem its innocuous name doesn’t properly convey the danger of this substance.

In recent weeks alone, purple heroin has killed at least three dozen people in Michigan, Illinois, Louisiana, and Arizona, according to a report. While purple heroin is not exactly a new substance, the version of the drug we're seeing in these incidents is particularly dangerous due to the fact that it contains an unfamiliar substance for which authorities and medical professionals do not yet have ways of reliably testing.

To help you become better informed about this growing problem, we’ve compiled all the information you need to know about this form of purple heroin.

What is Purple Heroin?

Although it is, in fact, purple in color, purple heroin is often comprised largely of synthetic drugs and pharmaceuticals, including a newer substance called brorphine. This makes purple heroin something like a cousin of "China white," a synthetic opioid that’s long been funneled into the US from Asia (hence the drug's name).

According to experts, brorphine — the new substance found in purple heroin — is comparable to fentanyl in many ways, including that fentanyl has been the source of a dramatic increase in overdose deaths in recent years. Fentanyl even caused the death of renowned musician Prince in 2016, offering some indication of just how common these substances actually are.

Where Does Purple Heroin Come From?

Brorphine is actually a recent discovery. The first documented instance of brorphine was in 2018 when it was created in a Chinese lab. Once it made its way into the hands of drug users, comparisons were made between brorphine and fentanyl, both of which are exceptionally-potent opioid drugs with very high potential for abuse.

Although purple heroin does enter the US from China directly, it’s actually much more common for Mexican drug cartels to bring purple heroin into the US from China via Mexico.

Effects of Purple Heroin

The effects of purple heroin are similar to most other opioid drugs, which act as depressants on the central nervous system. According to a fact sheet made by the DEA, some of the specific effects that brorphine users experience include the signature opioid euphoria, relief of pain, and respiratory depression, which is when a person’s breathing becomes shallow and labored.

Is Brorphine More Dangerous Than Fentanyl?

Per the journal Analytical Toxicology, brorphine was officially recognized about two months ago. Of the drug, scientists said, “Its high potency poses a serious and imminent health threat for any user.”

Because it’s such a recent discovery, there’s a ton of misinformation about brorphine across the internet, including sites like Reddit. For instance, many recreational drug users mistakenly believe that brorphine is a safer alternative to fentanyl, which isn’t actually the case for a couple of important reasons.

Deadly Yet Easy to Find

One reason brorphine is more dangerous than fentanyl is because fentanyl is more closely monitored and regulated. Although there’s an alarming amount of fentanyl on the street, fentanyl is classified as a controlled substance. This means that users who receive fentanyl legitimately can only get the drug from a pharmacy with a valid prescription.

Unlike fentanyl, brorphine isn’t federally monitored and distributed since brorphine is created in chemical labs. It’s for this reason that we’ve started seeing purple heroin cropping up in many parts of the US, causing a string of overdose deaths and putting countless opioid users at risk.

Leave Behind the Pain of Addiction with Never Alone Recovery

If you or your loved one is struggling, we can help. We offer drug rehabs in Indiana as well as Never Alone Recovery support services. There are Never Alone detox facilities to help wean you off substances safely. Then, you can move on to one of the Never Alone rehabs.

Don’t let your dangerous painkiller addiction get any worse. One hit of some powerful opioid drugs could end your life, just as purple heroin has killed several nationwide already.

purple heroin

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