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Rhodium: Drug Chemistry Archive

In keeping with the Heroin Helper added value mission, rather than simply provide our readers with a link to the rhodium archive with a comment that it has "lots" of drug chemistry information, we are providing individual links to its articles with a brief description and (more important) the level at which the article is written.

Each article is graded as to how difficult it is to understand. The following scale is used. In general, I have graded the articles liberally. This is to say that an article I rate as written for a general audience will require a member of that audience to work a little to understand the article. (Otherwise, nothing on Rhodium is for a general audience anyway.)

  1. General Audience
  2. High School Level Chemistry
  3. One Semester College Organic Chemistry
  4. Chemistry Bachelor's Degree
  5. Research Scientists

Level 1 Articles (General Audience)

Opium - Poppy Cultivation, Morphine and Heroin Manufacture
The official government "how to" guide for growing opium, extracting morphine, and producing heroin. This version has an introduction and afterword by Jim Hogshire. It is very useful information. Level 1.
Morphine and Opium Alkaloids
This is a student report on opium. It is easy to read and contains a good deal of useful information. Unfortunately, it contains a number major errors. It is not recommended. Level: 1.
Codeine FAQ
This is the standard codeine FAQ that you can find everywhere on the Internet. It is quite good. It includes a procedure for isolating codeine from pills that is good (although not as detailed as my own procedure. Level 1.
The making of heroin
This is Samson's condensation of the process of producing heroin, taken from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's book Opium and Heroin Cultivation in Southeast Asia. It is an excellent overview for interested parties, with enough detail that one could actually go into the business if he was so inclined. Level 1.

Level 2 Articles (High School Chemistry)

Identification Tests of Morphine
If you need to test a substance to see if it is morphine, you have found the article. You might not think that there would be a lot of need for testing a substance to see if it is morphine. You might be right. However, I can think of two good reasons right off hand. The first is that morphine is often sold as heroin. A heroin addict could die by injecting an amount of morphine equivalent to his normal heroin dose. (This is due to the histamine release that morphine causes.) The second reason, is that lawyers know little about chemistry, and so do most "expert chemical witnesses". People have been acquitted of drug charges by questioning the chemical results of the police lab work. One weakness of this article is that it deals only with morphine HCl and not morphine SO4.Level: 2.
Morphine and Structurally Related Analgesics
The actual title of this article is "The Structure of Morphine", but the title Rhodium gives it is much better. This is a good overview of the morphine like opioids. It does however, suffer from the usual heroin propaganda. Most of the article can be understood by a general audience. Level 2.
Chromic's Coldwater Codeine Extraction
This is basically the same procedure found here for isolating codeine from 222s. This discussion is shorter and may be clearer. Level 2.
Theoretical study of 2,3-seco-Fentanyl and other Fentanyl analogs
Various physical and chemical properties of these Fentanyl analogs are presented along with the potencies relative to Fentanyl. Level 2.

Level 3 Articles (College Organic Chemistry)

Codeine to Morphine Conversion Review
This is a surprisingly clear review of how a chemist would go about converting codeine into morphine. It includes four methods that work. Level: 3
Synthesis of Dimenoxadol
This is a queer article about a compound almost no one has heard of. Even the author admits that he is not certain that Dimenoxadol is an opioid. It is certain however, that Dimenoxadol is a pain reliever with about one-quarter the potency of morphine. Two procedures are given for the synthesis of this chemical, but the article is mostly worth while for its introductory material. Level 3.
Codeinone from Thebaine
This is a simple procedure for the recreational chemist. Codeinone, along with codeine, is the chemical most used to create morphine in the laboratory (except that as a society, we get a lot more morphine directly from poppies than we use). Should someone have thebaine just sitting around, this procedure could probably be carried out by anyone. However, the text assumes the reader knows a few things so I've set the level a little higher. Level 3.
Conversion of Thebaine to Codeine
This is a surprisingly simple process. One would think that taking the next step (from codeine to morphine) would be similarly easy, but it isn't. This article is very well written and give a reader with little or no organic chemistry experience a good idea of what organic chemistry is all about. Level 3.
Oxycodone and Oxymorphone from Codeine
This is actually two articles. The first describes creating oxymorphone from codeine via thebaine, which the author admits is a round-about method. The second article shows how to avoid creating thebaine, thus simplifying the process. It would be nice if someone (one of the authors) would combine the information and create a single, understandable article. Regardless, the process is easy enough to follow. Level 3.
Oxymorphone from Oxycodone
This is a surprisingly easy method for converting oxycodone into oxymorphone, which is 15 times as potent. Level 3.
The original article on the synthesis of heroin
This is an edited version of the original article on the synthesis of heroin and its pharmacological effects on dogs and rabbits. It has some interesting chemical information, but it is mostly interesting from a historical perspective. Level 3.
Review of different Heroin syntheses from Morphine
The title Rhodium gives to this paper is misleading. The paper describes the process of combining morphine and acetic anhydride in the presence of a catalyst, 4-dimethylaminopyridine. Doing so increases the reaction rate such that instead of boiling the mixture for several hours, it can simply be mixed at room temperature for less than 10 minutes. This is a surprisingly accessible article for peer-reviewed literature. Level 3.

Level 4 Articles

New Patent on the Extraction and Purification of Morphine from Opium
Although this article is not hard reading, it does not contain enough details to make it of much value to any but a well-trained chemist. It is of quite a bit of interest to readers interested in an over-view--that is, ones not planning to use the information in the lab. Level: 4.
Levorphanol (l-Dromoran) and Racemorphan Synesis
This is an excellent article, which almost anyone can read and gain from the process. The chemistry is very high level however. These two drugs are potent synthetic opioids (about as strong as heroin). The first third of the article is easy to follow and worth the time. Once it gets over your head, it doesn't much dip back down again. Read as much as you can. Level 4.
Pethidine (Demerol, Meperidine) Synthesis
This is a very terse discussion of the synthesis of Demerol and a Demerol-like compound. It is only of use to people interested in the chemistry, which means it's a pass for most people. Level 4.
One-step synthesis of Prodine
If you are sitting around with solutions of propionic acid and propionic anhydride, this is the recipe for you. The article is unfortunately given in PDF format with print disallowed. If the information were of more general interest, I would convert it to a regular web page. But given almost no one will be interested in this article, I am leaving it be. Level: 4.
Methadone Synthesis Overview
Who ever thought the United Nations would be good for something? After being a big reason that we have internation drug prohibition, they provide some very useful information on drug chemistry. This is an excellent overview of methadone synthesis with lots of references. It is written at a high level, but with a lot of work it could be useful to someone of lesser knowledge. Level: 4.
Pethidine-type Analgesics Overview
As with all of the UNDCP articles, this one is well documented. However, this one is riddled with typos that make it very hard to read. It will take real digging to get to bottom of it. Level 4.
The Stereo Chemistry of Morphine
High level theory is all you will find here. It isn't terribly hard to understand, but it is only of interest to researchers. Level 4.
Total synthesis of Morphine
This is similar to the other "total synthesis" articles, but it has some text that explains a little of what is going on. Of all these, this is the one to check out. Level 4.
Catalytic rearrangement of Morphine/Codeine to Hydromorphone/Hydrocodone
This is an English translation of German patents for changing morphine and codeine into hydromorphone and hydrocodone. These are chemicals used to create semi-synthetic opioids. The discussion is terse, but surprisingly understandable. It probably isn't of much interest to most recreational chemist. Level 4.
Quantitative Conversion of Codeine to Hydrocodone
This paper discusses a cheap method of creating hydrocodone in a free base from codeine. It is a fairly straight-forward process, but it requires a lot of knowledge to understand. Level 4.
Synthesis of Methadone
Although this article is rather long, it describes in great detail how to synthesize methadone starting with almost nothing. It is assumed that the chemist is fairly well trained, but an advanced degree is hardly necessary. For the non-chemist who can get past the jargon, it is an interesting paper to read--especially when put in historical perspective of being invented by the Germans because they had lost access to opium growing regions (and thus morphine) during World War II. Level 4.
Oxycodone and Codeinone from Codeine
This lengthy article presents three procedures for creating oxycodone from codeine. There is a lot of information on making intermediaries such as the process for changing codeinone to 14-hydroxycodeinone with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). The descriptions are fairly terse. Level 4.
Fentanyl Synthesis
This article goes step-by-step through the process of synthesizing Fentanyl. It is quite technical, however--hard to follow even for the chemistry educated. Level 4.
Carfentanil synthesis
Carfentanil is a Fentanyl analog that is 10,000 times as potent as morphine. This article provides the process for creating it by two different, patented techniques. The techniques seem simple enough, but they require chemicals that may be hard to get. Regardless, you might consider if you really want to be monkeying around with anything this strong. Level 4.

Level 5 Articles

Total Synthesis of Morphine: Page 1
Total Synthesis of Morphine: Page 2
This is not an article. It is two pictures (starts on page one and continues onto page two) of the chemoenzymatic synthesis of the morphine skeleton. It might be useful a regular chemist, but the resolution is really not great enough to tell what is going on unless you already pretty much know. Cool images though. Level 5.
Theoretical Study of Acyclic Fentanyl Analogs
This article presents some pretty high-level information on Fentanyl and its various analogs (although there are many more than are discussed in this article). There some interesting 3-D illustrations of the compounds that are worth a look. Otherwise, this one is just for the professionals. Level: 5.
Total synthesis of Morphine
This is not an article. But unlike the two pages listed above, this one is all together and easier to read. Level 5.
14-Hydroxycodeinone from Thebaine (PDF)
14-Hydroxycodeinone from Codeine (PDF)
To creating the opioid antagonists Naloxone and Naltrexone (as well as many other semi-synthetic opioid agonists and mixed agonists-antagonists) the chemical 14-Hydroxycodeinone is needed. Normally, this is created with Thebaine--the first article covers this. There is little naturally occurring Thebaine, however. The second article describes various processes to form 14-Hydroxycodeinone from Codeine via Codeinone. Cutting edge stuff that is not for the recreational chemist. Level 5.
Synthesis of a Clonitazene/Etonitazene Analog
Clonitazene and Etonitazene are extremely potent Schedule I opioids with roughly 1000 times the strength of morphine. This short article describes how to synthesize analogs of these two chemicals with terse instructions on how the process should be changed to create the actual chemical. This article shows just how easy it is to create extremely strong opioids. Chemists should always use great care. Level 5.
Discussions on a Fentanyl analog suggested by Drone #342
A very long and confusing discussion of how to synthesize a Fentanyl analog that is rough 1000 times as potent as heroin. This is not for the weak at heart. Level 5.
Synthesis and evaluation of 4-Methyl-Fentanyl (PDF)
This Fentanyl analog is 4 times as potent as Fentanyl. A terse description of its synthesis is given in the article. Level 5.
Synthesis and evaluation of 2,3-seco-Fentanyl (PDF)
This Fentanyl analog is less potent than Fentanyl; it has the strength of heroin. The paper describes the synthesis of this drug, but it is done using only chemical formulae--by professionals for professionals. Level 5.

Lost Articles

These are articles that have broken links. They are both linked to the alt.drugs.hard website, so I will locate them eventually. Regardless, they aren't the most interesting articles.

Extraction and purification of morphine from opium
This article was supposedly moved to the alt.drugs.hard website but I have not been able to find it as of yet. The given link is broken. There is similar information contained elsewhere, however. Worth checking out is Opium - Poppy Cultivation, Morphine and Heroin Manufacture, which contains this information along with much other information. In addition, this page contains comments made by Jim Hogshire, author of Opium For The Masses as well as other wonderful books.
Heroin manufacture
This article is supposedly on the alt.drugs.hard website but I haven't found it yet.

by Dr. H © 2002-2003
Last Modified: 7 January 2004