What Is Black Tar Heroin?

Heroin abuse is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. The Opioid Epidemic has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans, claiming over 115 people each day. Black tar heroin is a solid, dark form of heroin, which like all heroin, stems from morphine. Black Tar Heroin may come from Asia, South, or Central America, but is most closely associated with Mexico and the Cartels that smuggle most of the supply into the United States.

Black Tar Heroin is most common west of the Mississippi River, but it is found throughout the United States. For example, the state of Hawaii has noted an increase in Black Tar Heroin use. A recent news headline noted a local police officer confiscated 600 grams of Black Tar Heroin last year in Kauai, Hawaii. The profit margin for Black Tar Heroin are extremely high and the demand is also startling. Black Tar Heroin is just as addictive as regular Heroin, and at $6 a dose in many places, often a cheaper alternative.

Identifying Black Tar Heroin

In addition to Black Tar, Heroin is often commonly sold in a powdered form. Powdered Heroin is most typically white, but may also be brown, beige, black, off-white, gray, or tan. Powdered heroin is often dissolved into water to form a liquid that is injected, although it may also be smoked or snorted. In some cases, heroin is found in a sticky black or form form with the consistency of resin.

Similar to powdered or liquid Heroin, Black Tar Heroin is a dangerous chemical with extremely addicting properties. However, the color is usually darker and the texture greatly differs from regular Heroin. The consistency is solid and typically comes shaped like a ball. Its hardened texture comes from the way it is processed. The crude processing form used to create Black Tar Heroin produces its sticky consistency. Black Tar Heroin has a distinct smell of vinegar, which is largely because of other chemicals used to create it.

Black Tar Heroin’s Short-Term and Long-Term Effects

Black Tar Heroin is highly addictive and produces several long-term effects in users. Long-term effects of black tar heroin include lung disease, heart infections, mental disorders, and kidney disease. The most detrimental side effect is both a fatal and non-fatal overdose. Black Tar Heroin creates visible signs of abuse, such as:

  • Feelings of elation
  • Calmness
  • Apathy
  • Drowsiness
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Track marks from injection
  • Mood swings
  • Isolation
  • Relationship problems
  • Being secretive
  • Change of friend group
  • Frequent sedation
  • Flu-like symptoms between doses

The impurities found in Black Tar Heroin make certain side effects of use more likely. The most notable side effects of shooting Black Tar Heroin are abscesses and wound botulisms. Abscesses develop from the harmful chemicals in both regular heroin and Black Tar Heroin. This is largely due to contaminated needles and long-term heroin use. An added physical side effect of Black Tar Heroin is vein loss.

Wound Botulism and Black Tar Heroin Abuse

Wound botulism is a “rare but serious illness” marked by bacteria that contaminate nerves in the body. Botulinum and other organism enter the body through open wounds, like those caused by needles. Typically, in cases of Heroin abuse, wound botulism occurs from wound infections caused by injection, popping skin, or popping Black Tar Heroin.

Because bacteria are hard to see, people who use needles would not know if the bacteria will infect them once they inject Heroin. High heat does little to kill the bacteria; the strain of germs creating botulisms cannot be contracted like a cold can—only through shared needles. Wound botulism manifests in symptoms like:

  • Droopy eyelids
  • Dry Mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty with breathing
  • Paralysis/disability
  • Thick tongue
  • Problems with speaking
  • Death

As a result of Black Tar Heroin and liquid Heroin abuse, the CDC reported 9 cases of wound botulisms in 2018 in California alone. There was 1 death which emerged from these cases. The connecting factors in all 9 of these cases were directly related to heroin abuse.

Black Tar Heroin Abuse and Overdose Signs

Black Tar Heroin abuse can easily result from a prescription opioid dependence, although this is not always the case. Much of American’s Opioid Epidemic  can be traced to current and former patients using pills like Percocet and Oxycodone and becoming dependent. As a result, they can feel:

  • Delirious
  • Low blood pressure
  • Drowsiness
  • Depressive moods
  • Weight loss
  • Constipation
  • Changes in appearance (hair, face shape, eyes)
  • Low pulse

Signs of Black Tar Heroin overdose are more severe, including:

  • Blue lips
  • Shallow breathing
  • Coma
  • Stomach spasms
  • Death

These symptoms are severe and need assistance as soon as possible to prevent a fatal overdose.

Breaking Free From a Black Tar Heroin Addiction

Black Tar Heroin is a highly addictive substance which can lead to death. The key is getting help as soon as possible. Call a dedicated treatment provider to discover treatment options. Recovery can start today.

Author: Krystina Murray – Last Edited: June 17, 2021

Clinically Reviewed by: Theresa Parisi – Last Reviewed: September 23, 2019

Our Clinical Reviewers are certified addiction professionals who verify the information on Opioid Help to make sure we provide the most accurate, correct, and updated information to our readers.

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Peak, Corey. Ros, Hilary. Kamali, Amanda. Poe, Alyssa. Shahkarami, Mahtab. Kimura, Aikko. Jain, Seema. McDonald, Eric. (2019). Wound Botulism Outbreak Among Persons Who Use Black Tar Heroin—San Diego County 2017-2018. Retrieved on March 21, 2019 at https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm675152a3.htm

VeryWellMind.com. (2018). The Various Types Of Heroin. Retrieved on March 21, 2019 at https://www.verywellmind.com/heroin-photos-4020361

NPR.org. (2010). Black-Tar Heroin Lures New Users. Retrieved on March 21, 2019 at https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123781346

CDC.gov. (2019). Injection Drug Use And Wound Botulism. Retrieved on March 21, 2019 at https://www.cdc.gov/botulism/wound-botulism.html