What is Black Tar Heroin?

black tar heroin

Heroin is an illegal and addictive drug. There are different types of heroin, all of which are dangerous and often even life-threatening. What is black tar heroin? What makes it different from other types of heroin?

Created From the Poppy

Processed from morphine, a natural substance that is found in the seed pod of certain poppy seeds, heroin is a highly addictive drug. It can be produced in a number of forms or grades. White powder heroin is the most pure and black tar heroin is the least pure of these. White heroin is made by isolating the morphine molecule from the opium found in poppy seeds and then synthesizing the drug from the morphine.

The process of producing black tar heroin, though, skips the step of morphine isolation and synthesizes the heroin straight from the opium. This type of heroin is quicker and less expensive to produce than white heroin and so may be a cheaper option for those addicted to opioids.

Pure Heroin

A white powder that has a bitter taste, pure heroin predominantly comes from South America. It has also been known to originate in Southeast Asia. This type of heroin dominates the US markets east of the Mississippi River. This highly pure heroin can be more appealing to new users, as it can be snorted or smoked, rather than injected. The drug is more typically sold as a white or brown powder that has been cut with starch, sugars, powdered milk, or quinine.

Black Tar Heroin

Named for its stickiness, similar to roofing tar, black tar heroin can also be hard like coal. It is usually produced in Mexico and sold west of the Mississippi River in the US. It has a darker color because of the crude processing methods that create impurities. Users of black tar will dilute, dissolve, and inject the drug into their muscles, veins, or under their skin.

Black tar heroin is distributed as a sticky chunk that is blackish-brownish. It has been around for more than 100 years, but it became popular in the US in the 1970s as it is cheaper and easier to make than white powder heroin.

There are many dangers associated with black tar heroin, beyond the serious consequences of heroin use itself. This type of drug may be diluted with black shoe polish or dirt. The soil can contain the spores of a toxic substance known as Clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism, a potentially fatal type of food poisoning. If this spore infiltrates a wound on the body, it can cause an infection known as wound botulism.

Dangerous, Life-Threatening Consequences

Because of the way it is cut, black tar heroin can have serious, life-threatening consequences, especially for people who inject the drug. Between September 2017 and April 2018, there were nine cases of wound botulism reported in San Diego, California. All of the individuals suffering from the infection reported injecting heroin, with seven of them having used black tar heroin. Six of the individuals had injected the drug. One of them died as a result of the infection.

Another case of wound botulism was reported in San Diego County in October 2019. This case was also associated with black tar heroin injection. Additionally, between October 2 and November 24, 2019, nine people who had injected black tar heroin were admitted to San Diego County hospitals with severe myonecrosis. This disease damages muscle tissue. Seven of these individuals died from their infection. They ranged in age from 19 to 57; five were male.

There were 13 cases of probable and confirmed wound botulism in the last three months of 2019 in southern California. These cases mostly involved black tar heroin users.

Addiction and Mental Health Support for Men

We want you to be safe and healthy. When you are addicted to a dangerous drug such as black tar heroin, we can help. At PACE Recovery, we optimize your recovery success with integrated treatment that will address both your addiction to drugs or alcohol and your mental health issues. We address your whole person, including your spiritual, medical, psychosocial, and relational facets.

The professionals at PACE understand the challenges you are facing during this period of isolation and uncertainty. We’re here to help. Our men’s-only programming has transformed hundreds of lives over the years, and we believe that you can recover. To learn more about our mental health and addiction services, contact our Admissions team.