Purple Heroin: Its arrival and how we fight back

Shlomo Hoffman
Nov 11, 2020

A new illicit substance has arrived and the alarm bells are ringing. A cursory glance at a Google results page, keyword purple heroin, yielded these headlines, among a slew of others.

The stories don’t stop, and they are coming from every corner of the continent.  A relatively new and very deathly opiate cocktail is rearing its ugly head as a very unwelcome addition to the opioid epidemic wars.  Knowing the enemy is vital to drawing up a winning battle plan to fight it. Lets learn the basics of purple heroin.

What is Purple Heroin?

Purple Heroin is a mixture of acetaminophen (the active ingredient found in Tylenol), heroin and a newish drug called Brorphine.

In early August, the DEA released a report sounding the alarm on Brorphine. A synthetic opioid first reported in scientific literature in 2018, it has since made its presence felt in the drug markets, primarily in the midwestern United States. Due to its recent discovery, it is not on the United States list of controlled substances, although it has no approved medical use.

In some cases, Purple Heroin has been found to contain Carfentanil. Not to be confused with Fentanyl and in fact a 100 more times potent than its similarly sounding counterpart, it is used by veterinarians to treat elephants. It is so powerful that a dose the size of a grain of salt can be fatal to human beings.

How does Purple Heroin look and taste?

The dangerous cocktail’s purplish coloring gave it its name as well as the slang shortened versions, “purp” and “purple”. Taste is difficult to discern. Carfentanil has no odor or taste and many times people will have no idea they ingested it. This can lead to fatal overdoses.

It is commonly packaged as purple powder or crystals. A greyish color has been reported as well. Because it is still in the relatively early stages of proliferation, the picture hasn’t benn clearly filled out, and more identifying characteristics will be sure to come in the near future.

Signs of overdose from Purple Heroin

Blue lips or nails

• Dizziness and confusion

• Difficulty being woken up

• Choking, gurgling or snoring sounds

• Slow, weak or no breathing

• Drowsiness or difficulty staying awake

Narcan (Naloxone)

Like other opiates, quickly administering Narcan can be effective in overturning a purple heroin overdose. It is imperative for people caring for those struggling with addiction as well as those in the substance treatment industry to be knowledgeable in giving Narcan. Federal and local governments have made great strides in making the life-saving drug widespread and easily accessible. There are many resources available to learn about naloxone, where to procure it and how to safely administer it. Below is a sampling.

  1. A basic primer on all things Naloxone from NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) is a good place to start and can be found here:


  • A valuable landing spot for information on Naloxone can be found here.


  • Get Naloxone Now is an organization that directs people to Narcan access in their area as well as providing education on how to effectively administer it.


  • A training resource for Treatment Court professionals and families from the National Drug Court Institute (NDCI):


  • Many communities have local Narcan distribution programs. Look up local municipal or law enforcement pages to see what your town is doing.  

Substance Abuse Treatment

Purple Heroin is slowly taking its place in the opioid epidemic. With more than 20 fatalities recorded nationwide and an untold number of overdoses, it has experts in the field concerned. It is vital to stay informed and vigilant. If someone close to you is struggling with addiction, don’t stay quiet! Show them you care, urge them to consider substance abuse treatment, and help them find the place that can make a real difference. Call us at Avenues Recovery Centers to find out how we can help you with our personalized addiction treatment plans, our trademark empathy and compassion, and a place in our strong community.

Treatment works. See it work for you!

Since joining the Avenues Recovery content team, Shlomo has become a thought leader in the addiction field. His popular addiction podcast "Rubber Bands" is a must listen for anyone involved in Substance abuse treatment. He is a Seinfeld junkie, a recovering Twitter fanatic, and a sports expert. He enjoys milk shakes and beautiful views from rooftops.

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