You Can Now Make Morphine at Home With a Beer-Brewing Kit

By Nick Cowen on at

Are you into the idea of brewing your own craft beer at home? If you are, and if you've ever tried this activity, scientists have some good news for you. Or some bad news – depending on how your tastes in narcotics run.

According to the BBC, a recent article in Nature Chemical Biology contained findings from scientists showing that it's possible to make morphine using the same equipment one uses to brew beer at home. The article in question made reference to having concerns about 'home-brewed' illicit narcotics.

Morphine is an opioid drug, which acts on the central nervous system to relieve pain. It is the main active ingredient in opium, and is closely related to heroin.

If you are indeed into crafting beer at your home, you may know that the process relies on yeast fermenting grains into beer and turns sugar into alcohol. Combine that with the DNA from plants and you create an enzyme that turns the sugar into your drug of choice.

This was discovered by a team at the University of California, who say it should be feasible to "brew" morphine.

"What you really want to do from a fermentation perspective is to be able to feed the yeast glucose, which is a cheap sugar source, and have the yeast do all the chemical steps required downstream to make your target therapeutic drug," said Dr John Dueber, a bio-engineer at the University. "With our study, all the steps have been described, and it's now a matter of linking them together and scaling up the process.

"It's not a trivial challenge, but it's doable."

Now, we're not suggesting that you go ahead and do this, but now that it's possible, this process could prove to be a boon to medical practitioners in developing nations who usually don't have the resources or budget to get hold of morphine to sedate patients.

Image credit: Shutterstock