Black Tar Heroin

Black tar heroin is a specific type of heroin. For example, heroin can be a white or brown powder or a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin.  [1]  Identifying between the powder and black tar forms of heroin is easy, even for the new eye to the drug, since black tar heroin has its name from its resemblance to roofing tar.

Mexican black tar heroin is the prevailing type distributed by African American and Hispanic gangs.  The heroin is usually packaged in small balloons and is generally kept in the dealer’s mouth during deals.  Mexican black tar is the most widespread type of heroin available in the Central District. Los Angeles serves as a major distribution center and transshipment point for Mexican black tar and brown powdered heroin destined for California and different U.S. cities.

The Los Angeles HIDTA reports that heroin purity levels alternate between 9 and 67 percent and that most street-level samples average 25 percent.  A rise in heroin purity over the last few years has led to an increase in heroin overdoses.  [2]

All forms of heroin are obtained from morphine, a powerful opioid painkiller.  Heroin users are usually nonviolent, but they often waste savings and assets to purchase heroin to support their habit.  When all possible sources of income are drained, users may solicit or become low-level drug distributors to help their addiction.  Some even commit burglary and robbery to get the money needed to buy the drug.  [3]

Black Tar Heroin
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Effects of Black Tar Heroin

When heroin enters the system, it swiftly gets to the brain, changing back into morphine.  It can bring on a sense of euphoria in a user, which is the main reason for the popularity of this particular drug.  Other short-term effects include:

  • Clouded Thoughts
  • Flushed Skin
  • Dry Mouth
  • Nodding Off
  • Intense Itching
  • Legs and Arms Feel Heavy
  • Nausea and Vomiting

Black Tar Heroin Long-Term Effects

Using black tar heroin only once can be dangerous.  However, the long-term effects it produces on the brain and body can also be severe.

The Physical and Mental Long-Term Effects

  • Addiction
  • Brain Damage
  • Depression
  • Hormonal Problems
  • Insomnia
  • Overdose
  • Sexual Dysfunction (For Men)

Black tar heroin can make a person’s health drop and immune system weaken.  Joined with the respiratory depression that accompanies heroin abuse, these states may lead to tuberculosis and certain types of pneumonia.

Health Risks

The use of any heroin, including black tar heroin, is hazardous to one’s health.  For instance, injecting the drug intravenously can lead to venous sclerosis, which results in the narrowing and hardening of veins.

This can make it very tough for a user to inject the drug into that same vein in the future.  Eventually, veins can collapse altogether, leading users to inject the drug elsewhere on the body, even into muscle.

Bacterial infection is another serious health risk connected with the use of black tar heroin.  Infections, such as necrotizing fasciitis, can be life-threatening in a short amount of time due to how quickly they can expand.  [4]

Wound Botulism

Wound botulism, another disease caused by bacteria, can also occur from black tar heroin use;  most clients treated for this condition are heroin users.  [5]  If untreated, wound botulism can lead to paralysis and even death.  There is no cure, but symptoms can be handled if prompt care is sought.

Wound botulism (WB) is a potentially lethal, descending, flaccid paralysis that results when Clostridium botulinum spores germinate in a wound and elaborate neurotoxin.  Since 1988, California has experienced a dramatic increase in WB associated with injecting “black tar” heroin.   [6]

Injection of BTH intramuscularly or subcutaneously is the primary risk factor for the development of WB.  Therefore, physicians in the western United States, where BTH is widely used, should be aware of the potential for wound botulism to occur among us.

Overdose Signs And Symptoms

While overdoses aren’t always deadly, they have the potential to be.  For instance, the first dose of this powerful drug may cause an overdose, or an addicted person may overdose on it after abusing it for many years.

Signs and Symptoms of Overdose

  • Constipation
  • Delirium
  • Drowsiness
  • Faint Heartbeat
  • Intestinal or Stomach Spasms
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Pinpoint Pupils
  • Tongue Discoloration
  • Warm, Flushed Skin

Calling emergency medical services as soon as a heroin overdose is suspected could save a life.  In addition, if administered soon enough, the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan (naloxone) could reverse an overdose before it becomes fatal.

How It’s Used

Basic methods of use for heroin include smoking or injecting the drug.  In some instances, heroin is snorted, but it’s not as common as other methods of ingestion.  Since the drug can dissolve in the water quite fast, injection drug use is more common.  Paraphernalia commonly associated with injecting heroin include:

  • A spoon
  • Syringes
  • Aluminum foil
  • Lighters
  • Cotton Balls
  • A belt to tie off the arm, making veins more prominent

Users who smoke heroin often use a lighter to burn the substance after placing it on a small piece of aluminum foil.  Then, they will usually inhale the substance through some small funneling object.

Withdrawal Signs And Symptoms

When a person begins to withdrawal from the drug, they may feel ill and have flu-like symptoms.

Black Tar Heroin Withdrawal Effects

  • Cold Flashes with Goosebumps
  • Bone and Muscle Pain
  • Insomnia
  • Intense Cravings
  • Leg Movements
  • Restlessness
  • A person may also have gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.

If you are addicted to drugs, your first step in recovery should be to medical detox in a safe and medically supervised setting.  That is why We Level Up is here for you.  We Level Up NJ Detox center medically assist patients in clearing their systems of addictive substances, such as black tar heroin.

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Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists.  Our counselors know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

For anyone who suffers from addiction, we know that just the thought of having to stop using can cause severe mental distress.  Given that, the medical detox center will help you manage the medical detox process.  In addition, a comprehensive team prescribing medications can alleviate your withdrawal pains while monitoring your health 24 hours.  Thus, assuring both your safety and comfort.

At We Level Up NJ, our thorough approach to rehabilitation supports several levels of care to ensure the best possible outcome for every patient who enters our doors.  From an intensive and more supportive atmosphere for those in the early days of recovery to a comfortable residential-style living dynamic upon completion of black tar heroin detox, we are here to help guide you down the safe and results-based path to your sobriety.


Sources:

[1] Heroin Drug Facts – National Institute on Drug Abuse (2021)
[2-3] Heroin – National Drug Intelligence Center
[4] Necrotizing Fasciitis: All You Need to Know – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
[5] Injection Drug Use and Wound Botulism – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
[6] Wound botulism associated with black tar heroin among injecting drug users – National Library of Medicine