Can heroin now be made at home, from yeast? And how big of a problem is this?
Scienists have been working to genetically alter yeast in order to find a cheaper way to develop opiate pain killers. Heroin is made from poppy, as are opiate analgesics such as morphine. If scientists can genetically modify yeast to replace poppy, they reduce the cost of producing these drugs.
Will they also create a new recipe for heroin that can be made at home, from something as simple as yeast? It’s not likely, say those who know the science.
There are approximately 18 steps to chemically produce opiates. The process is complex and not fully understood. This new research accomplishes just one of those steps, and therefore scientists are not raising alarms about home-brewed heroin any time soon. The research causing a stir appears in DeLoache, W. C. et al. Nature Chem. Biol. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nchembio.1816 (2015), and was reported in Nature (http://www.nature.com/news/engineered-yeast-paves-way-for-home-brew-heroin-1.17566#/b1).
Some law enforcement and some caring addiction professionals are asking society to “get out in front” of this development, to prevent such a nightmare scenario as cheap home-made heroin.