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  • Black Tar Heroin | What Is Black Tar Heroin?

    Published on December 29, 2020
    black tar heroin syringe and spoon

    Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine, which is a substance naturally derived from the opium poppy plant. As an illicit drug, heroin poses a serious risk of abuse. People abuse it to feel euphoric or “high.” 

    There are multiple forms of heroin, including a white powder, a brown powder, and a form called “black tar heroin” (BTH).  

    What Is Black Tar Heroin?

    As its name suggests, black tar heroin is a type of heroin that resembles roofing tar. Most BTH in the United States comes from Mexico.

    Unlike powder heroin, BTH is either sticky or hard. Due to crude processing methods, the drug contains impurities that give it a dark brown or black color. 

    Black Tar Heroin Use

    Many people smoke the drug by placing it on aluminum foil, heating it with a lighter or other heat source, and inhaling the resulting smoke with a straw. 

    Others inject the drug into their veins, under their skin (known as “skin popping”), or into their muscles (“muscle popping” or “muscling”). In addition, some people snort BTH or dissolve it in water and squirt the mixture into their nostrils. 

    Side Effects Of Black Tar Heroin 

    Any type of heroin use may cause side effects such as:

    • drowsiness
    • trouble concentrating
    • nausea
    • vomiting 
    • slowed heart rate
    • slowed breathing, which can lead to coma and permanent brain damage 

    Dangers Of Black Tar Heroin

    Along with the side effects listed above, people who use BTH may develop other health problems depending on how they use the drug. 

    For example, people who smoke BTH may experience lung damage and trouble breathing, while those who snort it could face nosebleeds, loss of smell, and nasal damage. 

    Similarly, injecting BTH can cause bloodborne diseases, venous sclerosis, necrotizing fasciitis, and wound botulism. 

    Bloodborne Diseases

    Like all forms of injection drug use, injecting BTH can lead to bloodborne diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C from sharing needles and other paraphernalia. If you share paraphernalia with an infected person, you may contract the disease yourself. 

    Venous Sclerosis

    This condition causes your veins to harden and, in some cases, collapse. Long-term heroin use can cause collapsed veins, leading some to start injecting the drug into muscle instead. 

    Wound Botulism

    If you inject BTH into muscle or under your skin, you may develop wound botulism. This potentially fatal disease occurs when germs create a toxin that attacks your nerves. Symptoms include dry mouth, blurry or double vision, slurred speech, muscle weakness, and trouble breathing.

    Necrotizing Fasciitis

    Also called flesh-eating disease, necrotizing fasciitis is a life-threatening bacterial infection that kills tissue beneath the skin at drug injection sites. 

    Symptoms include fever, severe pain, and red, warm, swelling that spreads rapidly. 

    Black Tar Heroin Addiction & Overdose

    People who use heroin face a high risk of physical dependence, which means they may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug. 

    Physical dependence often leads to addiction, a disease that causes severe cravings for heroin and requires professional treatment.  

    People who are addicted to heroin often overdose, which can be fatal. Common signs of heroin overdose include:

    • cold, clammy skin
    • vomiting
    • slow, shallow breathing
    • seizures
    • coma (loss of consciousness) 

    Call 911 immediately if you or someone you know experiences these symptoms. 

    If you or a loved one uses black tar heroin, please contact an Ark Behavioral Health specialist to learn about our comprehensive substance abuse treatment programs. 

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Injection Drug Use and Wound Botulism
    National Institute on Drug Abuse - What Is Heroin and How Is It Used?
    Oxford Academic: Clinical Infectious Diseases - Necrotizing Fasciitis Associated with Injection Drug Use | Clinical Infectious Diseases
    U.S. National Library of Medicine: Drug and Alcohol Dependence - Chasing the dragon, related to the impaired lung function among heroin users

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