The hydroxide-catalyzed non-enzymatic, simultaneous and consecutive hydrolyses of diacetylmorphine (DAM, heroin) are quantified in terms of 10 site- and species-specific rate constants in connection with also 10 site- and species-specific acid-base equilibrium constants, comprising all the 12 coexisting species in solution. This characterization involves the major and minor decomposition pathways via 6-acetylmorphine and 3-acetylmorphine, respectively, and morphine, the final product. Hydrolysis has been found to be 18–120 times faster at site 3 than at site 6, depending on the status of the amino group and the rest of the molecule. Nitrogen protonation accelerates the hydrolysis 5–6 times at site 3 and slightly less at site 6.
Hydrolysis rate constants are interpreted in terms of intramolecular inductive effects and the concomitant local electron densities. Hydrolysis fraction, a new physico-chemical parameter is introduced and determined to quantify the contribution of the individual microspecies to the overall hydrolysis. Hydrolysis fractions are depicted as a function of pH.