Black Tar Heroin

In the United States, the opioid epidemic has led many Americans to develop substance use disorders and mental health issues and caused them to turn to injection drug use.

People who were once addicted to prescription medications had to find other and more affordable ways to sustain their addictions— heroin is one of the most commonly abused drugs, and black tar heroin is the most accessible.

Black tar heroin is a powerful opioid drug that is cheap and widely available.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) describes black tar heroin as “sticky like roofing tar or hard like coal” and explains that its color results from crude processing that leaves impurities.

Despite the impurities and lower price of black tar heroin compared to other forms, it is just as addictive and dangerous.

What Is Black Tar Heroin?

Black tar heroin is a specific type of heroin, most common in places where the drug supply comes from South America, especially in border states like Texas.

Despite being cheaper and easier to find than white and brown heroin, black tar heroin is not less potent than its counterparts. The misconception that black tar is weaker and users need to take more to get high has led to increased heroin overdose deaths.

Black tar heroin is cheaper than other types of heroin because it is not as refined and highly processed as other forms. More things can be added to black tar heroin that won’t change its appearance or consistency.

Street Names

While many slang terms for heroin include black tar heroin, some specific street terms exist. These street names include:

  • Black tar
  • Black
  • Shebang
  • Monkey water
  • Black dragon
  • Mexican mud
  • Black pearl

How Is Black Tar Heroin Used?

Unlike other types of heroin, snorting or smoking black tar heroin takes a lot of time and effort because of its texture; injecting is the most popular way for users to get high.

Some users have admitted to mixing black tar heroin with hot water, letting it cool, and using an eyedropper or syringe barrel to squirt the liquid up their nose.
This method is most common when users either don’t have access to a needle for injecting or when all their injection veins and sites are collapsed or infected.

What Does Black Tar Heroin Look Like?

Black tar heroin looks exactly how it sounds— like a black, sticky substance that resembles glue or tar, with a dark color that is usually black or a very dark brown.

Black tar heroin gets its appearance and consistency from how the heroin itself is processed and what cutting agents dealers use, making it impossible to turn into a powder form.

Occasionally it comes in a solid form, which looks like small chunks of coal; dark, rough, and porous. But, black tar heroin is typically sold in small plastic or foil packets and sometimes in uninflated balloons.

Like all illicit drugs, every batch will be different, but most black tar heroin users agree that it almost always has a powerful vinegar smell.


Types of Heroin

There are three types of heroin worldwide, all processed from morphine extracted from poppy plants. The three forms of heroin are:

White Heroin

White heroin accounts for the most common heroin globally and generally comes from Southeast Asian sources.

It is a fine, lightweight powder easily dissolved in water.

Heroin users can inject, smoke, or snort white heroin.

Brown Heroin

Brown heroin primarily comes from Southwest Asia but has been found worldwide.

It is a coarse, grainy brown powder that varies in color from off-white to medium brown and does not dissolve in water easily.

Heroin users can inject, smoke, or snort brown heroin.

Black Tar Heroin

Black tar heroin only comes from Mexico and Colombia and is the most common type of heroin in the United States west of the Mississippi River.

It is either a solid, brittle block or a gummy, sticky substance that ranges from dark brown to black and will not dissolve in water.

Heroin users almost exclusively inject black tar heroin. Because of the high acidity, smoking black tar heroin burns the soft tissue in the nose and mouth, and the consistency makes it almost impossible to snort.


The purity of black tar heroin depends on the purification process and the cutting agent type and amount, also known as added adulterants and diluents.

Adulterants are substances that actively affect the body, like numbing powders, methamphetamines, fentanyl, or xylazine. These are often cheaper and easier to obtain but enhance or mimic heroin’s effect.

Diluents are inactive substances such as sugar, starch, baby powder, or powdered milk.
Dealers and chemists add diluents to increase the bulk of their products, enabling them to sell more at a higher profit.

white heroin

Black Tar Heroin vs. Regular Heroin

Despite their very different appearances, black tar heroin and regular heroin have more in common than differences, especially the effects and dangers.

A study by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) showed that people who had used black tar heroin and regular heroin found the highs to be very similar.
In the United States, black tar heroin is widely available and cheap because it goes through less chemical filtration, and the cutting agents used are cheap and common. Regular heroin goes through more filtration, and the cutting agents must be more precise to keep the color and consistency intact.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), impurities in black tar heroin put users at high risk of wound botulism, a neuromuscular infection that regular heroin users do not contract. The bacteria that causes wound botulism comes from the drug itself, not tainted injection equipment.

black tar heroin vs regular heroin

Heroin Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one is struggling with heroin addiction, help is available.

Our expert team at Northridge Addiction Treatment Center recognizes that every person has unique needs and requires an individualized and customizable treatment plan to ensure successful and lasting recovery.

Our peaceful residential treatment facility offers on-site medical detox and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to ease you through withdrawal symptoms in comfort and privacy.

Once you are safely through withdrawal, we work with you to explore the roots of your addiction and use evidence-based treatments to help you address all underlying issues and the harm they have caused you and your loved ones.

Our compassionate staff at NATC is invested in your success and will give you the skills and ability to avoid relapse and maintain your recovery.

You deserve a free life from substance abuse’s stress, complications, and pain. Reach out today to take the first steps on your journey to recovery.

Find Meaningful Recovery

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