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Black Tar Heroin: The Demon That Won’t Let You Go

Black tar heroin is, as you might expect, a dangerous variant of heroin. It looks different, acts different, and is produced and consumed differently than typical heroin, but it produces many of the same results, and of course, it is extremely addictive. While it may seem less harmful to users because they can smoke black tar heroin, overdose and addiction is imminent. When you think of heroin, there is probably a consistent set of images that enter your head. You think of a spoon, an open flame, and a needle, right? That’s true of standard heroin, but the black tar variety is a bit different in a lot of ways, and believe it or not, it’s actually far more prevalent. Signs of black tar heroin use are different than white heroin. For starters, smoking black tar heroin is the most common method, not injected (though it is possible to inject black tar, just with some increased risks). That alone changes a great deal about how it affects the body and the brain. The creation process is a great deal different as well, as is the distribution. But for as much as there is that’s different about black tar heroin, there’s no difference in that it’s extremely dangerous, addictive, and deadly. The risk of heroin overdose is still there and visible signs of black tar heroin use is just as apparent as white heroin. It still warps the brain and rearranges its priorities to the point that the drug is the whole point of your life, and the only thing you aspire to. That type of addiction is common to any drug, substance, or behavior, so just because black tar heroin looks and acts different from the standard variety, that doesn’t mean the results are much different. It still ruins lives and destroys relationships and careers. People smoking black tar heroin will experience a rapid tolerance and a downward spiral of every aspect of their lives. Still, to understand the best way to fight back against black tar heroin, it helps to know what you’re looking at. So let’s run down exactly how to identify heroin, where it comes from, what it does to you, and everything else you may need to know about it.

What Actually Is Black Tar Heroin?

Black tar heroin, like white heroin, derives from morphine, which is a potent opioid painkiller. For those wondering what does black tar heroin look like, the name says it all. Black tar heroin gets its name from its appearance. Just like it sounds, it has the appearance of sticky black tar, not unlike what you would use for the roof of a house. It can also be found in solid form, where it has the appearance of a dark orange or dark brown chunk like a lump of coal. The dark color comes from how it’s processed, which leaves behind impurities. Okay, so why does black tar heroin have such a different appearance than the usual powdered substance? Simply put, the heroin is processed differently. Black tar heroin is a less pure version of the substance that is taken from an earlier point in the creation process. The process of black tar heroin production leaves impurities when compared to white heroin or morphine. Black tar heroin is only up to 30% pure. There is a misconception that because the black tar variety of heroin is less pure, that means it’s also less potent or less addictive. That isn’t true – black tar heroin can be just as damaging as its purified counterparts, and it’s every bit as addictive. The problem with a type of heroin that’s only 20-30 percent pure is in the obvious question: What, then, is the other 70-80 percent made up of? It varies, but generally it’s made up of toxic additives and supplements. These impurities are what cause infections when black tar heroin is injected which can be life threatening.

Health Risks of Black Tar Heroin

Due to the impurities, black tar heroin actually poses some unique health risks that aren’t common to normal heroin, especially when injected. When you consider that black tar heroin is only 20-30% pure, it leaves the question, what makes up the bulk amount? It will often contain toxic contaminants and additives. There is, of course, always the risk of black tar heroin overdose. The consistency of black tar heroin is another health risk, known for clogging needles, and if it doesn’t clog the needle, it’s likely to clog veins and arteries. The consistency makes it hard to maintain long-term intravenous heroin use. It can lead to subcutaneous injections and many health risks. The tar can also cause irreparable damage to the brain, liver, kidneys and lungs, depending on the consumption method. Smoking black tar heroin wreaks havoc on the lungs. Injecting black tar heroin comes with the risk of infections, some of which are fatal:

Venous Sclerosis

Due to the impurity of black tar heroin, it can cause the veins to harden and narrow.

Flesh-Eating Disease

This deep tissue infection can cause you death or emergency limb amputations. It is more common among black tar heroin users specifically when compared to people not using the drug. When flesh-eating disease isn’t treated, it is fatal over 70% of the time. Despite this being one of the obvious visible signs of black tar heroin use, an addict will likely not seek help due to their state of mind.

Wound Botulism

This rare toxin disease is a toxic bacteria infection in an open wound. One of the telltale signs of black heroin use are open wounds. The risk is higher for an addict because black tar heroin can be contaminated with the bacteria that causes wound botulism. It is a fatal disorder that would call for immediate medical help for a heroin addict to survive.


Due to the difficulty of injecting black tar heroin into the veins, it will often be injected into the skin or muscle (subcutaneously). This creates an environment for infections like tetanus to thrive.

Tissue Necrosis (Tissue Death)

The risk of injecting subcutaneously can cause tissue death in the injection areas.

Where Does Black Tar Heroin Come From, and Who Uses It?

A reasonable question to ask is why anyone would use black tar heroin, if it’s an unpurified form of heroin to start with, and the associated health risks are higher? The simplest, shortest answer is that black tar heroin is much cheaper than normal heroin. In fact, it generally costs less than a third of what normal heroin costs for a similar quantity. It is also prevalent on the streets of certain states in the US. Black tar heroin use in Washington State and California are concerning. That alone drives the demand for black tar. Just as heroin has seen a spike in usage because it works as a cheaper, more available replacement for prescription opioids, black tar tends to serve the same purpose for regular heroin. However, unlike regular heroin, black tar is not readily available nationwide. It can be found around the globe in sporadic areas of continents. This shows to be the case in the US. Top states for heroin use – and increasing in usage – west of the Mississippi River, particularly on the west coast and southwest regions of the United States. In fact, in many southern states, black tar heroin may be the only type of heroin commonly available, as the more valuable and lucrative powdered forms take different supply routes – often through the air – to get to the northeast and northwest areas of the country. Black tar heroin use in Washington State is also a particular concern. The cheaper and lower-quality black-tar variety is more prevalent in the more rural, lower-income areas in the south.

Why Black Tar Heroin is Most Common in the Western U.S.

Heroin use statistics by State show that heroin use in the Western U.S. is highly prevalent. The reason black tar heroin use in Washington State is so much more prevalent is because nearly all of the black tar heroin in the U.S. comes from Mexico. Geographically, Mexico borders California, which is where much of the heroin comes through. Washington State is also close in proximity and has many port cities where black tar heroin is smuggled into. And while Mexican opium production has started to shift towards the more lucrative white powder heroin, black tar still accounts for a majority of heroin consumption in the United States. States with the most heroin use may currently be in Western U.S. but it may not stay relegated to the west for long. Increased demand and the steady spread of the opioid epidemic has allowed black tar trafficking networks to make a steady eastward push, expanding the territory that has access to the drug. There’s another reason why black tar heroin is having such rapid growth throughout the United States, though. Sure, it’s partly because the opioid epidemic is exploding, and it’s partly that it’s cheap. But there’s something else that makes black tar an attractive option, especially to those who aren’t yet addicted: The consumption method.

How Is Black Tar Heroin Used?

Black tar heroin can be injected, as we’ve discussed already. But there is a certain stigma attached to injecting drugs. Even among those who are willing to experiment with drugs, there is a certain mental wall most people have when it comes to injecting. Putting aside a widespread public aversion to needles (even in a doctor’s office), there is a certain feeling that injecting drugs is a more serious, “hardcore” version of drug usage. It is closely tied in the public consciousness with addiction and “junkie” status. So what if someone wants to experiment with an opioid, but prescriptions are too expensive, and they don’t want to go straight to the needle? People are much more open to experimenting with drugs if they can smoke it or swallow it as opposed to injecting it. The primary methods of use are smoking black tar heroin or injecting the drug. In some instances, heroin is snorted, but it’s not as common as other methods of ingestion. Black tar heroin is dissolvable in water easily. Common paraphernalia associated with heroin injection includes:

  • A spoon
  • Syringes
  • Aluminum foil
  • Lighters
  • Cotton balls
  • Something to tie around the arm to make veins more accessible.
  • Simple. Black tar heroin can be smoked.

Not in the traditional sense, of course. It doesn’t typically go in a wrapper or pipe. Smoking black tar heroin will include a piece of aluminum foil. They will burn the substance on the foil and inhale through a funnel of sorts. This could be a straw or a rolled up piece of paper. The common street name for this method of smoking black tar heroin is “chasing the dragon,” and it’s one of the reasons why it can be potentially more damaging than powder. Smoking black tar heroin gives all the same negative side effects of doing heroin normally (though usually with a shorter high), but also damages your lungs in the process. It’s the worst elements of an opioid, combined with the worst elements of smoking. Still, due partly to the normalization of smoking cigarettes and marijuana, the risks associated with smoking black tar heroin are largely considered to be lower, even though they’re largely not. Common behavior of a black tar heroin addict are very similar to that of white heroin users. It’s just that drugs that are smoked are assumed to be less harmful than drugs that are injected, which makes black tar seem like a more innocuous thing to experiment with compared to injecting powder heroin.

Common Behaviors of a Black Tar Heroin Addict

Behaviors and symptoms of a black tar heroin addict will depend on the person, how long and how much they’ve abused, and what drugs and alcohol they are combining. Common behaviors associated with a heroin user will include:

  • The inability to stop using black tar heroin even if they try.
  • They always need to know that they have access to heroin as they are constantly preparing for the next hit.
  • They will steal and do whatever else it takes to get black tar heroin.
  • They will spend money on black tar heroin even when they have no other money.
  • After smoking black tar heroin they may engage in risky activities.
  • They put all their effort, time, and energy on obtaining, using, and managing the come down of the drug.
  • They will use black tar heroin as a means of managing emotional problems in their life.
  • They will heavily lie to cover up heroin abuse despite leaving paraphernalia around when they’re too high to hide it. This is where you can gain clues on whether someone is using or not.
  • Heroin and paraphernalia will be stashed around the house.
  • Legal, financial, and relationship problems will ensue.
  • They will become socially withdrawn.
  • They will stop doing activities that were once enjoyable.
  • They will have an increased libido.

They will also experience psychosocial symptoms such as:

  • Depression and anxiety.
  • Behaviors that are impulsive.
  • Addiction.
  • Withdrawal symptoms if they don’t have access to black tar heroin.]
  • Mental illnesses will worsen when taking heroin, creating a complex co-occurring disorder.
  • Emotional wellbeing plummets.


What Are The Effects of Black Tar Heroin?

Black tar heroin is a dangerous form of heroin. Black tar heroin is cheap so addicts can purchase more, making a heroin overdose more plausible. There is more likelihood of toxins because it’s less refined but make no mistake, it’s still as potent. Effects of black tar heroin are like other kinds of heroin but with more risk. The additives and substance that make up a large portion of it can cause deadly infection and serious health problems. Intravenous risks are higher than purer forms of heroin. The typical signs a person is on heroin are the same as someone using black tar heroin. As heroin arrives at the brain, it transforms to morphine. These effects can cause:

  • Nausea
  • Impairment
  • Constipation
  • Itching
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Lack of coordination
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Heavy limbs
  • Clouded thinking
  • Flushed skin
  • Dry mouth
  • Nodding off
  • Abscessed skin and muscle

Black tar heroin shares most of the same health risks as regular heroin, especially when injected. Those risks and side effects include:

  • shallow breathing
  • collapsed veins
  • vomiting
  • clouded mental functions
  • pneumonia
  • infectious diseases (from needle-sharing)

These are things that can be experienced by those who inject powder heroin or black tar heroin. The effects are common to both forms of the drug. Some of the unique features of the black tar variety include wound botulism and constricted blood vessels. The other major common effect is, of course, addiction. Black tar brings the same rush of euphoria upon usage that other opioids have, and with that rush comes the risk of addiction.

What Heroin usage Does to Your Mind and Body

Heroin, regardless of whether you’re smoking black tar heroin, or injecting white heroin in the body – floods the brain’s pleasure center with dopamine, which is basically your brain’s method of telling you something was a good idea. You get a small amount of dopamine when you exercise, eat good food, or take part in hobbies or activities you enjoy. But when you take heroin, you get a massive, uncontrollable amount of dopamine, which is why using it brings such a strong, euphoric rush of energy. Put simply, using heroin is chemically formulated to making you feel extremely happy. It doesn’t actually make you happy for any actual reason, it just sends up false signals throughout your brain. And just as you end up wanting more good food, or to do more of your hobby, you also want more heroin. That’s how addiction starts. And because the dopamine rush it brings is so strong, addicts tend to find themselves losing interest in anything other than their drug usage. Heroin usage brings a dopamine overload so strong, that the normal amounts of dopamine felt from regular activities no longer even register as enjoyable, because your brain has adapted to dopamine on a much greater scale. This is also why addicts need to use more and more of their substance to get the same high – the more they use, the more the body adapts and normalizes it. And that means the body also needs more to drive it into “high” territory – and ultimately puts itself at an increased risk of heroin overdose.

Black Tar Heroin Withdrawal

Black tar heroin withdrawal is similar to that of white heroin. Users quickly develop a tolerance where they need more of the drug to obtain the intense high they become accustomed to. As an opioid, it produces the same type of dependency that becomes all encompassing for users. To avoid uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, black tar heroin addicts will continue using. The symptoms are as intense as white heroin. The black tar heroin withdrawal symptoms will begin around 6 hours after the last use. They include:

  • Depression or low mood
  • Vomiting
  • Aching of the muscles and bones
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Uncontrollable kicking movements

Signs of Black Heroin Abuse

If you notice that someone you care about is exhibiting some of these behaviors, there is a possibility that they are using heroin. The denial for an addict is high so you will probably want to seek out a professional intervention service. Finding a heroin addiction recovery center in Washington State should be paramount if there are multiple signs of someone abusing heroin. Here is how to identify heroin use:

  • Visible Signs of Black Tar Heroin Use
  • Drastic changes to eating and sleeping habits.
  • Eyes and nose are constantly runny.
  • Sudden weight loss or gain.
  • User will stop hygiene and appearance maintenance.
  • Unexplained injuries or bruises they are unwilling to open up about.
  • They may get the shakes.
  • Their speech can be slurred and incoherent.
  • Shakes, slurred or incoherent speech.

Psychological Signs of Black Tar Heroin Abuse

  • Changes in a person attitude and character.
  • Mood changes that can go from anger to laughter.
  • Hyperactivity and agitation.
  • They may appear out of it and have no motivation.
  • They may seem fearful, paranoid and filled with anxiety.

Black Tar Heroin Rehab

Regardless of whether you’re smoking black tar heroin or injecting powder heroin, rehab will be similar. Black tar heroin rehabilitation should include a full program to help you recover. Evidence-based rehab centers use proven methods to help heroin addicts. After heroin detox, behavioral and pharmacological methods are necessary to help people get past black tar heroin addiction. Black tar heroin is a heavy addiction and it’s not easy to stop which is why rehab is always recommended. Having support from family and friends has proven to be an important part of any substance addiction recovery. Perhaps the problem with black tar heroin addiction is the downward spiral that one takes. Often to the point where the person can’t be reasoned with anymore. This is why intervention will be the first step in the process to recovery.

Getting Help to Stop Chasing the Dragon

There are many different ways to use black tar heroin, but they all lead to the same basic set of circumstances – dependency, addiction, health problems, relationship problems, career problems, and ultimately, a feeling of total helplessness. But no matter what it feels like, you’re not helpless, and you can get better. You may need some help to get there, but treatment is available, and it is proven to work. Black tar rehab Addiction affects the brain, and so beating it isn’t as simple as just giving up the drug. It’s not an issue of willpower or strength. It isn’t about morals or being a good or bad person. It’s a disease that needs treatment. But it falls on those who suffer to take the first step into a heroin treatment center. Black tar heroin is a drug with absolutely deadly effects if left untreated for too long. As with any opioid, the addiction builds and the usage gets heavier until it ruins your health and your finances, and ultimately may lead to a fatal overdose. Black tar heroin in Washington is causing societal and economical issues. It is breaking families apart and it’s up to each individual to take care of one another in the battle against it. Have you, or those close to you, had experiences with black tar heroin? What were your experiences like? What advice do you have for others suffering from the same affliction? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below.

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