In Clearbrook Treatment Centers Pennsylvania, Family Resources, Heroin Addiction, Opioid Addiction, Personal Resources, Sober Living

If you aren’t familiar with the different types of heroin, then you may be wondering, “what is black tar heroin?” Black tar heroin is a type of heroin that’s sold in a different form than the commonly known white powder. It’s different in appearance from the regular powder heroin, making it easier to distinguish. All forms of heroin are made from the opioid morphine, which is a powerful painkiller. Black tar heroin is predominantly made and distributed from Mexico as well as some South American and Asian countries. Due to the large Mexican supply of heroin, black tar heroin has become more common in the United States, especially in cities like Los Angeles. But what is the difference between heroin and black tar heroin?


How Is Black Tar Heroin Used?

Black tar heroin is a dark, sticky substance that looks similar to tar, which is how it got its name. Other names for black tar heroin include black clown, tar, black, pigment, piedra (‘stone’ in Spanish), and nut job. Regardless of what they look like, all different forms of heroin are dangerous and produce similar side effects. Black tar heroin is highly addictive and can easily lead to an overdose. Most people who abuse black tar heroin require the help of heroin withdrawal treatment to get sober. All opioids work by attaching to opioid receptors in the body to block pain signals from the body to the brain and activate chemicals dopamine and serotonin.


Black tar heroin is used mostly by either smoking it or injecting it. Since the drug comes in the form of a thick liquid, it can also be dissolved in water, making it easier to inject. Black tar heroin drug paraphernalia includes:


  • Spoons
  • Syringes
  • Aluminum foil
  • Lighters
  • Cotton balls
  • A belt to tie off the arm and make the veins more prominent


Users who smoke black tar heroin often use a lighter to burn the substance after placing it on a small piece of aluminum foil or spoon. Then they inhale the substance through a small funnel of some kind. Black tar heroin produces side effects like euphoria, heavy limbs, clouded thinking, flushed skin, and being “in the nod” or slipping in and out of consciousness. When black tar heroin enters the system, it becomes morphine again, becoming a more potent drug. Because morphine and all of its subtypes are addictive, whether it’s heroin or the black tar drug, long-time users may require heroin treatment to regain their physical health.


Heroin vs Black Tar Heroin: What’s the Difference?

The difference between heroin and black tar heroin is that heroin is a white powder and black tar heroin is a dark, sticky tar-like substance. Both are heroin, but they look different and come in different forms, and all samples of heroin can be dangerous. Unlike prescription drugs, street drugs or drugs that are sold illegally aren’t regulated by the FDA. This means that the production of heroin is not monitored and is unsafe. Most drug dealers and drug labs that produce heroin cut it with other substances like burned cornstarch, sugar, and baking soda.


Some other differences between black tar heroin and heroin include:


  • Where they come from: Black tar heroin is made primarily in Mexico, where its ingredients are processed to create a dark, sticky, tar-like substance or a hardened rock form that looks like a piece of coal. Black tar heroin is then transported from Mexico and distributed into the United States.
  • Use in the U.S.: Although white powdered heroin is common among the eastern regions of the U.S., black tar heroin is most common in western regions due to its proximity to the Mexican border, including states like California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Up until recently, the Mississippi River was a common reference point for separating heroin drug markets. However, black tar heroin has gradually made its way further east to states, including Ohio.
  • Purity: When comparing heroin vs black tar heroin, the two are also believed to differ in purity. The purity of black tar heroin is estimated at 25 to 30 percent, while the purity of powder heroin is estimated at 41.2 percent.1


Among the most common long-term effects of black tar heroin is addiction. Heroin use has risen considerably in the last decade. Chronic black tar heroin use can lead to dangers like collapsed veins, insomnia, cardiovascular disease, depression, and more. Many people are battling some kind of opioid addiction due to the drug epidemic in the nation.


If you or someone you know is showing signs of heroin addiction, call Clearbrook Treatment Centers Pennsylvania now at 570-536-9621 for more information about our inpatient drug treatment. Our team is dedicated to helping patients through their physical and mental recovery to ensure they can continue living their lives drug-free.




  1. DEA – 2015 Heroin Domestic Monitor Program


Related Reading:

The Dangers of Smoking Heroin

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