What is Black Tar Heroin

What is Black Tar Heroin
Picture of Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Joshua Yager M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Joshua Yager M.D.

Dr. Joshua Yager is an Atlanta native, board-certified family practice physician who is dedicated to the health and wellbeing of his community.

Table of Contents

What is Black Tar Heroin?

Black tar heroin is a formidable and hazardous variant of heroin originating from the opium poppy plant. Its name is derived from its unique appearance—a dark, dense, and sticky substance reminiscent of roofing tar or coal. This heroin variant is chiefly produced in Mexico and predominantly found in the western and southwestern regions of the United States.

Characteristics of Black Tar Heroin

Unlike its counterparts—white or brown powdered forms—black tar heroin has a distinct physicality primarily due to its texture; it’s dark black or brown, sticky, and possesses a viscous consistency.

The drug’s potency can be unpredictable from one batch to the next, given its tar-like consistency, heightening the probability of overdose. Black tar heroin exudes a pungent odor often described as acrid or vinegar-like, owing to impurities and chemical additives included during its production process.

Production of Black Tar Heroin

The process of black tar heroin production commences with the opium poppy plant (Papaver somniferum). After scoring or cutting its mature seed pod, the sap oozes out and solidifies into a resinous substance called opium gum, which houses alkaloids like morphine and codeine, essential for heroin production.

The following step involves extracting morphine from the opium gum, typically done by boiling the gum in water, thereby dissolving the morphine. After filtration, the morphine-rich liquid is separated from solid plant material and other impurities.

To transform the liquid into heroin, chemicals like acetic anhydride or acetyl chloride are mixed in. Upon heating, a chemical reaction occurs, converting morphine molecules into diacetylmorphine, creating a substance referred to as the “heroin base,” though it’s not yet suitable for consumption.

The heroin base undergoes a purification process using water and other chemicals like hydrochloric acid or sodium carbonate. After heating and stirring, impurities settle at the bottom, allowing the extraction of the purified heroin base. Post evaporation of any remaining water, the resultant substance is the sticky, dark-colored black tar heroin.

Consumption of Black Tar Heroin

Black tar heroin can be consumed via three primary methods— injection, smoking, and snorting.

  1. Injection: A favored method among many users involves dissolving black tar heroin in water before injecting it directly into their veins using needles and syringes. This method carries substantial risks, including a high probability of overdose due to its potency, which could lead to respiratory failure and possibly death if left untreated. The presence of impurities in black tar heroin can also cause serious health issues such as infections like abscesses and vein damage. Sharing needles and other injection equipment further risks contracting viruses like HIV and hepatitis B.
  2. Smoking: The term “chasing black dragon” denotes a practice where users smoke small amounts of black tar heroin on aluminum foil, using a lighter to produce vapors that are inhaled through a straw or rolled-up paper. Although this method may mitigate some risks associated with injection, it still holds serious dangers such as lung damage from toxic fumes, addiction, and overdose due to the swift absorption of the drug into the bloodstream via the lungs.
  3. Snorting: Due to its sticky consistency, snorting black tar heroin is less prevalent as it challenges inhalation in powder form. Some users may dissolve it in water and snort the liquid using a straw or another device. Like smoking, this method carries similar risks of addiction, overdose, and potential damage to the nasal passages and respiratory system.

Risks of Using Black Tar Heroin

The high potency of black tar heroin makes it substantially riskier compared to other opioid substances. Below are several dangers associated with its use:

  1. Highly Addictive Nature: Black tar heroin’s addictive nature presents a significant risk to its users. Like other heroin variants, it can cause both physical and psychological dependence. Once addicted, individuals may endure powerful urges and face significant withdrawal symptoms, making cessation a daunting task. This addiction can lead to grave health, financial, and interpersonal issues.
  2. Risk of Overdose: The potency and unpredictable purity of black tar heroin increase the likelihood of overdose. Users may unknowingly ingest a lethal dose, especially since the drug is often mixed with various substances to augment its volume. Overdoses can culminate in respiratory failure, coma, and death.
  3. Increased Risk of Infection: The black tar heroin production process carries significant contamination risks, potentially exposing users to dangerous microorganisms. Needle sharing can lead to severe infections like cellulitis, abscesses, and endocarditis, posing grave health risks. It also heightens the exposure to blood-borne pathogens like HIV and Hepatitis C.
  4. Damage to Veins and Tissues: The act of injecting black tar heroin can inflict severe damage to veins and surrounding tissues. The drug’s sticky consistency can obstruct blood vessels, resulting in collapsed veins, inflammation, and blood clots. In some cases, this damage necessitates amputation or other invasive medical interventions.
  5. Neurological Complications: Long-term use of black tar heroin is linked to nervous system complexities, including cognitive defects like memory loss and focus issues. Moreover, individuals indulging in this narcotic might experience a decline in their emotional well-being, leading to heightened levels of anxiety or depression along with other symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes, and involuntary leg movements.

Frequently Asked Questions about Black Tar Heroin

Gain more insight into the frequently asked questions concerning black tar heroin, understanding its immediate and lasting effects: Uncover the short-term impact, including euphoria and discomfort, as well as long-term repercussions like health deterioration, neurological issues, and legal consequences.

What are the short-term effects of using Black Tar Heroin?

Black tar heroin is known to induce a spectrum of physical and psychological effects on the body, both short-term and undesirable. While users may initially experience intense euphoria and pain relief, they often encounter negative outcomes such as severe nausea, dizziness, irritability, and an overall decline in physical and mental health.

What are the long-term effects of using Black Tar Heroin?

Long-term black tar heroin use can lead to severe health issues like infections, damage to veins and tissues, neurological complications, and mental health problems. Additionally, users may face social and legal repercussions.

What are the signs of a Black Tar Heroin overdose?

In cases of black tar heroin use, it’s vital to recognize the signs of an overdose. Individuals may exhibit shallow or halted breathing, blue lips and nails, pinpoint pupils, weak pulse, low blood pressure, and confusion leading to unconsciousness. Every moment is crucial during an overdose, and immediate emergency medical assistance should be sought.

How can Black Tar Heroin addiction be treated?

Effective treatment for black tar heroin addiction encompasses medication-assisted treatment options like methadone or buprenorphine, behavioral therapy, and support from healthcare providers, friends, and family. Tailoring treatment plans to cater to the specific needs of each individual is crucial.

What are the withdrawal symptoms of Black Tar Heroin?

Withdrawal symptoms from black tar heroin may encompass intense cravings, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes, and involuntary leg movements.


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