Lately I've been getting really interested in the earliest origins of the Heroin (or 'junkie') subculture as we know it today in the US. Whats most interesting is how information spreads among the Heroin/illicit opioid addict population: it is oral history, or oral story telling, similar to how religious or cultural traditions were passed down from generation to generation and tribe to tribe before the written word. It is well known among Federal researchers and non-profits that Heroin addicts congregate into groups, like small tribes. They use the same stuff from the same few dealers or single dealer, they get high together, borrow money from eachother, run scams/hustle together, etc. Stories are passed when one addict from one group runs into other addicts from other groups, which is constantly happening.
Rumors about drugs or different activities spread this way, and pretty soon most addicts are familiar with a certain rumor thats been picked up through the junkie grapevine. For example, the myths about Methadone being a prime example. Since the earliest MMT programs in the late 60s, diffusion of Methadone myths like Methadone gets stored in your spine and/or bones, etc
One of the earliest of these stories to diffuse is about Quinine, and Strychnine.
Addicts today often regard Quinine and Strychnine as nothing more than cuts to stretch profit for the higher up drug dealers. Documents released by most drug enforcement organizations, government and non-profit, share this view, and lump using Quinine and Strychnine to cut Heroin in with brown sugar, Mannitol, Lactose, and other non-active substances. Because we are 70 years removed from the origin of cutting Heroin with Quinine and Strychnine, the stories have been forgotten by the subculture.
I want to go over some more of the original stories regarding these two substances.
One such story regarding Quinine and Strychnine is that they are added to Heroin over other cuts because they are both characteristically bitter; like Heroin.
http://www.heroinhelper.com/user/misc/cut.shtmlPowder is normally cut with milk sugar or quinine. The idea of "tasting" heroin to determine its purity comes from the days when it was cut with milk sugar. Heroin is bitter is taste. As a result of this, the more bitter the sample, the purer it is; the sweeter it is, less pure. This is one of the reasons for the introduction of quinine as an adulterant: it is bitter in taste, so a sample will be bitter regardless of how much it is cut.
While this is a commonly passed on story, it seems to be an afterthought entirely- a coincidence, as the original reasons for Strychnine and Quinine being added to Heroin seem to have very specific origins.
http://www.doctordeluca.com/Library/...-ODmystery.htmQuinine was introduced as an adulterant of heroin sometime after 1939, when an epidemic of malaria spread by contaminated injection needles hit New York City addicts... Some addicts discovered that the quinine contributed to the sensation known as a "rush" immediately after injection. Heroin traffickers also discovered that the bitter taste of the quinine makes it impossible for addicts to gauge the concentration of heroin in the bag by tasting the mixture. For these and possibly other reasons, quinine has remained a standard adulterant of New York City heroin ever since.
http://www.drugpolicy.org/docUploads/meth340.pdfAn important aspect of this (IV) use was the
indiscriminate sharing of unsterilized syringes for
intravenous injection of drugs. As a result, infections
spread easily among users. Fatalities were
often due to malaria, bacterial endocarditis, septic
thrombophlebitis and viral hepatitis. Interestingly,
quinine was used as a diluent in heroin during the
1930s. Addicts and those in the heroin trade
quickly realized that quinine was a cure for and
prophylaxis against malaria. Quinine as a diluent
solved the problem of transmitting malaria among
addicts sharing paraphernalia for injecting drugs.
The origin of using Quinine specifically as an additive cut in illicit, black market Heroin seems to be very easy to pinpoint: the 1930s outbreak of Malaria among Heroin addicts in the epicenter of Heroin activity in the US: New York City. After it had begun to be added, word of mouth spread that when taken by IV injection, Heroin combined with Quinine provided a better rush (Quinine is a central nervous system stimulant in small to moderate doses, as is the Procaine, Lidocaine and other 'Caine's found in Heroin today along with Quinine- so think of these chemicals as providing a minor speedball like rush to the Heroin rush), plus dealers found that Quinine's bitter taste masked the sugar cuts of the day, stopping users from being able to taste their product to determine purity.
The origin of Strychnine has a much more colorful history of oral stories about its origins.
Take for example the famous novel Junkie, by William Burroughs:
He mentions this idea a couple times in the book. It seems that some believe that Strychnine, being bitter like Quinine and Heroin, is only good for killing off an addict who steals, informs to the cops, etc.Hot Shot . . . Poison, usually Strychnine, passed to an addict as junk. The peddler sometimes slips a hot shot to an addict because the addict is giving information to the law.
Another theory of the origin of Strychnine in Heroin:
http://balder.prohosting.com/~adhpag..._varieties.txtOne suggestion as far as heroin is concerned is the current belief that adulterants such as strychnine and quinine originated from the Chinese heroin pills of the 1920's and that their continued use is due to the characteristic flavor they impart to the smoke. Heroin of S.E. Asian origin enjoys this dubious distinction.
Focusing on a different method of use (Chasing vs IV), again this is a spin off of the belief that both Strychnine and Quinine are useful because of their bitterness (or taste). While China was the very first source of illicit Heroin in the way we know it today (i.e. a country grows poppies, harvests Opium, refines Opium, extracts Morphine, makes Heroin and ships it to the US) following the 1924 Heroin Act (as prior to 1924 and after the Harrison Act of 1914, the demand for Heroin was supplied with diverted medical Heroin from the legal prescription market, similar to how the Oxycodone addiction community uses and acquires OxyContin today).
This may very well be the origin of Strychnine in illicit Heroin, as Strychnine was a commonly used medication of the early 20th century. I cannot confirm if Strychnine/Heroin combination pills exist, but, due to the CNS stimulant nature of Strychnine, like Quinine, plus its bitterness, if such pills were crushed and vaporized/Chased, or injected, it is certainly plausible black market Heroin would contain Strychnine at the behest of the cooks because the addict community of the time and place, commonly abused Heroin/Strychnine products.
This phenomenon has happened in the case of Diconal. When Diconal fell out of favor because of widespread abuse (as did Heroin 50 years earlier), users continued to try and replicate the experience of Diconal (Dipapanone & Cyclizine) with Methadone and Cyclizine and Heroin and Cyclizine.
This proves that if another ingredient, when taken with an opioid is sufficiently pleasurable, addicts will try to continue using this ingredient even if the original products are no longer available, despite the availibility of other opioids.
And make no mistake, Quinine and Strychnine are both widely used in illicit Heroin to this day (especially Quinine):
http://www.hawaii.edu/hivandaids/Pul...Nov%202001.pdf“Tres pesos” and “benita”...
New York, NY: According to the ethnographic
source, “A user in Brooklyn stated
that the heroin was being mixed with
‘Tres Pesos’ (meaning ‘three steps’),
which is a rat poison shipped from Santo
Domingo. (They call it three steps
because after the mice inhale it they take
three steps and die.) The user said the
reaction is intense, the rush is quicker,
and they feel like they’re going to die.”
Baltimore, MD: The ethnographic source
reports that “‘benita,’ a type of heroin
cut with quinine, which has been around
for a while, is less available than before.”
For reasons outlined above, Procaine and Lidocaine have become just as prominent as Quinine and Strychnine once were, for the same reasons. This shift happened around the Vietnam war:
http://balder.prohosting.com/adhpage...oin_p_dope.txtIn a second case during the Vietnam war the price of quinine which had been the
principal cut in heroin rose in price from $6 an ounce to $36 dollars an ounce
as supplies were being earmarked for Nam driving the price up. Apparently
major wholesalers were not getting the response they wanted from their clients
when they started cutting with manitol so they got so chemists to mix up a
batch of cut that included dibucaine for a rush and heptobarbital to moderate
the toxicity of IV dibucaine. The cost factor would be of particular
significance to wholesalers who would require 100 pound loads of cut.
Following Vietnam, the 'Caine class of chemicals (Procaine, Lidocaine, Benzocaine, Cinchocaine, Tetracaine, etc) have become common cuts in Heroin intended for IV injection due to the effect on the rush.
I hope someone finds this as interesting as I do.