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Chemical Sampling Information (CSI)
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General Description

Synonyms: Morphinan-3,6-alpha-Diol, 7,8-didehydro-4,5-alpha-Epoxy-17-Methyl-, Diacetate (ester); Diacetylmorphine; acetomorphine; diamorphine; 3,6-diacetyl morphine

OSHA IMIS Code Number: H137

Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) Registry Number: 561-27-3

Chemical Description and Physical Properties:
white odorless, crystalline powder with bitter taste
molecular formula: C21H23NO5
molecular weight: 369.42
melting point: 173°C
Health Factors

Potential Symptoms: Respiratory irritation, sensitization (bronchospasm); meiosis, diplopia (double vision); nausea, vomiting, constipation; euphoria, dizziness, sleepiness, coma; respiratory depression, pulmonary edema, death

Health Effects: Acute toxicity---Short term high risk effects (HE4); Nervous System Disturbances---Spongiform leukoencephalopathy (HE7); Narcosis (HE8); Respiratory Effects--- Respiratory sensitization (asthma) (HE9); Acute pulmonary edema (HE11)

Affected Organs: CNS, gastrointestinal tract

  1. OSHA does not have a PEL for heroin.
  2. Heroin is a Schedule 1 controlled substance (no approved medical use).
  3. Heroin is activated by various esterases to 6-monoacetylmorphine and morphine, which mediate effects (except asthma and allergy) via agonistic effects at mu-opioid receptors.
  4. The average half-life of heroin in plasma is less than 10 minutes, whereas the average half-life of morphine is 2-3 hours. The mean excretion half-life for total morphine (free and conjugated) in the urine after heroin is smoked or administered intravenously is slightly more than 3 hours.
  5. Inhalation (or insufflation) of heroin powder may precipitate severe asthma in patients with a history of asthma.
  6. Inhalation of heated heroin vapor is associated with the occurrence of a symmetric spongiform degeneration of white matter (leukoencephalopathy) in the CNS characterized by neurobehavioral changes. It is not known whether this is caused by heating adulterants in heroin or by pyrolysis products of heroin.
Date Last Revised: 09/15/2005

Literature Basis:
  • Biagini, R.E., et al.: Antibodies to morphine in workers exposed to opiates at a narcotics manufacturing facility and evidence of similar antibodies in heroin abusers. Life Sci. 47(10): 897-908, 1990.
  • Firth, A.Y.: Heroin and diplopia. Addiction 100(1): 46-50, 2005.
  • Kamendulis, L.M., Brzezinski, M.R., Pindel, E.V., Bosron, W.F. and Dean, R.A.: Metabolism of cocaine and heroin is catalyzed by the same human liver carboxylesterases. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 279(2): 713-717, 1996.
  • Kendall, J.M. and Latter, V.S.: Intranasal diamorphine as an alternative to intramuscular morphine: pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic aspects. Clin. Pharmacokinet. 42(6): 501-513, 2003.
  • Keogh, C.F., Andrews, G.T., Spacey, S.D., Forkheim, K.E. and Graeb, D.A.: Neuroimaging features of heroin inhalation toxicity: "chasing the dragon." AJR Am. J. Roentgenol. 180(3): 847-850, 2003.
  • Krantz, A.J., Hershow, R.C., Prachand, N., Hayden, D.M., Franklin, C. and Hryhorezuk, D.O.: Heroin insufflation as a trigger for patients with life-threatening asthma. Chest 123(2): 510-517, 2003.
  • Kriegstein, A.R., et al.: Leukoencephalopathy and raised brain lactate from heroin vapor inhalation ("chasing the dragon"). Neurology 53(8): 1765-1773, 1999.
  • Smith, M.L., et al.: Urinary excretion profiles for total morphine, free morphine, and 6-acetylmorphine following smoked and intravenous heroin. J. Anal. Toxicol. 25(7): 504-514, 2001.
  • Vella, S., Kreis, R., Lovblad, K.O. and Steinlin, M.: Acute leukoencephalopathy after inhalation of a single dose of heroin. Neuropediatrics 34(2): 100-104, 2003.
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Page last updated: 09/05/2006