What is liquid heroin? 1.4 metric tons seized in 'astronomical' Oregon bust

What is liquid heroin? 1.4 metric tons seized in 'astronomical' Oregon bust

When authorities announced the seizure of 1.4 metric tons of liquid heroin in Oregon last week, it made national headlines and left many wondering: What is liquid heroin?

Heroin in its natural form is found in the seed pod of opium poppy plants in parts of Asia, Mexico and Colombia, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The drug is most commonly used in the U.S. by ingesting it as a powder, which can be white, brown or black.

The highly addictive opioid hasn’t been widely distributed in its liquid form until recently, according to a rehabilitation center in Los Angeles.

Here’s what to know about liquid heroin and the case that is shining a light on the dangerous drug.

What is liquid heroin?

Liquid heroin is powdered heroin dissolved in water that is then heated and injected, according to the Tampa, Florida-based Clean Recovery Centers, which works helps rehabilitate people who’ve used the drug. Powder or even pills also can be turned into a serum and easily injected.

The liquid version of the drug crosses the blood-brain barrier faster than other forms, “leading to its intense effects and high potential for heroin addiction,” according to Compassion Behavioral Health of Los Angeles.

The heroin metabolizes as morphine that then ‘binds to opioid receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and other organs, resulting in a powerful analgesic and euphoric effect.”

The effects of liquid heroin on the body
The use of liquid heroin comes with some serious and often deadly side effects, according to Compassion

Behavioral Health. They include:


Impaired cognition

Decreased respiratory function

A suppressed immune system

For those who become addicted, long-term effects could include:

Liver and kidney damage

Respiratory disorders

Increased susceptibility to infectious diseases

Mental health problems

Impaired daily function

What is lean heroin?

Lean isn’t heroin, but is sometimes still called that.

Lean, also known by its street name of “purple drank,” is a liquid substance with Codeine as its key component. The codeine, an opioid pain reliever used to treat mild to moderately severe pain, according to the Food and Drug Administration, is then mixed with the following:

Cough syrup


Hard candy



Lean, just like liquid heroin, is a quick shot to the nervous system and highly addictive. Lean is sometimes mixed with powered milk and sugar to get it to sell better on the black web, according to Clean Recovery Centers.

Liquid heroin: 370 gallons seized in Oregon, 4 arrested in ‘transnational’ investigation

How did 1.4 metric tons of liquid heroin end up in Oregon?

Late last month, law enforcement obtained information that several people working for a Mexico-based transnational criminal organization were taking a large amount of illegal drugs into Oregon, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Investigators followed a rented moving truck and a red pickup to a motel in Tigard, Oregon, where they served a search warrant and found eight barrels containing 370 gallons of liquid heroin and two guns, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

It was an “astronomical” amount of liquid heroin, Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Kerin said in court last week, according to The Oregonian.

“Something we haven’t seen here in Oregon − nothing even has come close to that in the past,” he said.

Four men were arrested and are facing charges of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin and possess with intent to distribute heroin.