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What is Black Tar Heroin?

Most people know heroin to be a brown or white powder that is highly addictive and illegal. However, there is another type of heroin that is called black tar heroin. It looks different from other types of the drug and can be considered to be just as dangerous and addictive.

What is Black Tar Heroin?

Black tar heroin is another type of the drug heroin that is processed differently. It gets it name from the fact that it is black and sticky to the touch. According to the NIDA, “black tar heroin’ is sticky like roofing tar or hard like coal.” A study from the NCBI states that “physically, most of the world’s heroin is in powered form.” The exception to this is of course the black tar version. It is heavier than regular, powdered heroin and easily recognizable by its color and state of solidity.

The NCBI states that it is usually “wrapped in plastic and sealed in tiny balloons for sale” while other types of heroin are usually solid in “glassine folds or tiny plastic zip baggies.”

What Causes Black Tar Heroin to Look Different?

black tar opium

Black tar opium is a less pure and less common form of heroin.

Black tar heroin looks like it does because of the “crude processing methods that leave behind impurities” (NIDA). Black tar heroin is made more cheaply and, as a result, is not as pure as the other types of the drug. According to the NCBI, “black tar heroin seems to plateau at about 25-30% pure.”

How is Black Tar Heroin Abused?

While black tar heroin is usually impure, it will most likely be “dissolved, diluted, and injected into veins, muscles, or under the skin” (NIDA). It is usually not snorted or smoked like very pure heroin can sometimes be, and it is often used by people who have been addicted to heroin for some time. There is a stigma associated with drugs of injection even in the drug community, so new users are not quick to start this way. Those who use black tar heroin will usually be individuals who have been addicted to the drug for a while and do not care if the drug is pure or not, only that it staves off withdrawal symptoms and possibly helps them get high.

Where Does Black Tar Heroin Come From?

Black tar heroin primarily comes from Mexico. The NIDA states that it is often “sold in the U.S. areas west of the Mississippi River.” As purer, powdered heroin “dominates U.S. markets east of the Mississippi River,” the opposite side of the country is more open toward black tar heroin sales.

The NDIC states that “Los Angeles serves as a major distribution center and transshipment point for Mexican black tar and brown powdered heroin.” In the west coast, the distribution of black tar heroin from Mexico is becoming more and more prevalent.

What are the Other Issues Associated with Black Tar Heroin?

Black tar heroin has been known to cause issues such as:

  • Wound botulism
  • Soft tissue infection
  • Tetanus

Because black tar heroin sometimes contains many impurities and possible contaminations, it can cause many additional health risks for users. Currently, work is being done to create black tar heroin that is significantly purer which would cause more people to become exposed to the drug.

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