An Offer Hard to Refuse: Heroin Math 1 (Pills to Mainlining)


People addicted to prescription painkillers who buy their pills on the black market switch to heroin because it is a better economic deal (cheaper and stronger).

The Situation:

When a person’s painkiller prescription runs out or their tolerance outruns their prescription, and the user still needs opioids to keep from being sick, the user turns to the black market and buys painkillers on the street.

In Hartford, the going rate for oxycodone is $1 per milligram.  A 30 mg oxycodone costs $30.  The same person who sells them oxycodone often also sells heroin.  Heroin in Hartford goes for $5 a bag.

For $30 you can buy 6 bags of heroin.  (This is without any discount.)

If the strengths were equally priced, a 30 milligram oxycodone would be the equivalent of six bags of heroin.

It is not.  Heroin is not only cheaper than oxycodone, it is stronger.

Let’s do some math.

The Math/Assumptions

An oxycodone 30 mg is the equivalent of 15 mg morphine IV.  (1)

Heroin is at least twice as strong as morphine. (2)

Thus 50% pure heroin is at least the equivalent of morphine.

15 mg of 50% pure heroin/50% cutting agents is 0.015 grams.

A bag of heroin typically contains 0.1 gram (100 mg) of powder.

15 mg multiplied by X  = 100 mg = 0.1 gram

X = 6.6

It takes six point six (6.6) 30 mg oxycodones to provide the same wallop as one (1) 0.1 mg gram bag of 50% pure heroin.

A 0.1 gram bag of 50% pure heroin is the equivalent of 100 mg of morphine or 200 mg of oxycodone.

Bottom Line: Money Talks

For the same price as a 30 mg oxycodone, a person could buy 6 bags of heroin, each bag of which is 6.6 times as strong as the 30 mg oxycodone.

Heroin is a better deal by a factor of 40.  


Opioid Addicts switch to heroin because it is cheaper, stronger and more widely available.



Heroin can be bought for as low as $4 for a single bag.  A bundle of ten bags sells for $35-$40.  A stack of 100 between $170-$220.

The strength of various brands of heroin is widely varied.  It can be 20% or 100% depending on how it is cut and and how often.  I used 50% pure for the sake of this exercise. (3)

Pure heroin can be mixed with sugar, baby formula, caffeine, quinine and other substances.

Today much of the heroin in Hartford also contains fentanyl, which is 50 times stronger than pure heroin.

The more fentanyl that is added to a bag, the less need for it to be high heroin purity.

Some brands don’t contain any heroin in at all, just fentanyl mixed with the various mentioned substances.

Only a small portion of a fentanyl brand actually contains pure fentanyl.

In all likelihood with the rise in fentanyl, the bang for the buck is even higher than 40 fold.



(2) How Does Heroin Compare to Morphine?

(3) Heroin Purity in the United States


Update (9-23-2017)

I have discussed my math with some users and they tell me while the math may be correct, my equations don’t necessarily reflect the quality of the heroin on the street today, and the key factor that they take the pills and break them up and inject them, which greatly increases their strength.  Still, they all state that heroin is a much better bargain than the pills.


  • MARY BAKER says:

    Does heroin go bad after a while, or is it basically shelf-stable? As a hypothetical, looking at the economics of it, I’m intrigued about the value in stockpiling and reselling. It wouldn’t be feasible, I would think, due to the dangers of theft or discovery. But I wonder if a heroin user in a fairly stable environment would be better off to buy in bulk and store it (minimizing purchases and interaction with sellers, plus getting a discount), or if the stuff goes bad quickly enough that he or she would have to make repeated buys to keep fresh product.

    • medicscribe says:

      Hi Mary-

      I don’t think it goes bad that quickly, but I am not an expert in that. I think the issue is self control. Too much heroin readily available may cause the person to use more and more. If a person uses five bags a day, and they buy a stack or 100 bags, after they have done their five, they may think maybe do just a couple more, and in no time, their 20 day supply is gone long before the 20 days are up. Some users do buy in bulk, then resell at a markup, using the profits to support their own habits. A $5 bag in Hartford, can easily sell for $10 in the suburbs.

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