What Is Black Tar Heroin?

Just as it sounds, black tar heroin is a cruder form of the illicit opioid that is black and sticky in appearance and texture. Also popularly referred to as Mexican black tar heroin due to it being a major export for Mexican cartels, the drug is mostly found west of the Mississippi River in the US and Canada.

Many hear that black tar heroin isn’t as pure and think that it isn’t as potent as its white, powder form; however, it is just as strong. This misconception can easily lead to people overdosing, thinking that they need more to get the same high. Because of its crude form, the sticky tar cannot be used intravenously unless it is diluted into a liquid (typically done by heating it with a spoon). People who have black tar heroin will also smoke it, often on tin foil, or ingest it another way.

Effects Of Black Tar Heroin

All heroin carries the same effects. It is commonly believed that black tar heroin is less pure than other forms of the drug, but that is largely a misconception. While there is a widespread belief that white heroin is purer, it is very often cut with other powders to keep the cost down. Black tar heroin is typically around 30% pure due to the faster, cruder process that the heroin goes through; the purity can vary tremendously, however. While the process used to create black tar heroin makes it cheaper to produce and to buy, it also often makes the heroin less pure and more dangerous. General effects of heroin, no matter the color, are the same. They include:

  • Contentment
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Relieved tension
  • Drowsiness
  • Apathy

Anyone who uses black tar heroin will feel these effects from the first time they use it. Unfortunately, these are also the desired effects that make the drug so addictive. While both long and short-term black tar heroin users are equally likely to experience an overdose, the longer someone uses heroin the more likely they are to develop other disorders and diseases. Long-term effects of heroin use include:

  • Insomnia
  • Collapsed veins (from intravenous use)
  • Damaged tissue (where drug is ingested)
  • Infection of the heart lining and valves
  • Abscesses (swollen tissue filled with pus)
  • Constipation
  • Stomach cramps
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Lung disease
  • Mental disorders
  • Erectile dysfunction in men
  • Irregular menstrual cycles in women

Black Tar Heroin Statistics



Roughly 80% of Americans who suffer from heroin addiction admit they started with a prescription opioid.



In 2016, there were 948,000 heroin users in the US; it marked a 135% increase from 2003’s 404,000.

Signs Of Overdose From Black Tar Heroin

Signs of heroin overdose include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Shallow or no breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weak pulse
  • Dry mouth
  • Tongue discoloration
  • Very small pupils
  • Bluish lips and nails
  • Stomach or intestinal spasms
  • Delirium
  • Passing out
  • Uncontrollable muscle movements
  • Extreme drowsiness

If someone begins exhibiting these symptoms, timely use of naloxone can reverse these symptoms and stop an overdose before it turns fatal.

Black Tar Heroin Addiction

Many who become addicted to heroin do not start heroin because that is what they want. Statistically, the average user will turn to heroin after they’ve already developed an opioid addiction. This is generally from a prescription opioid that they were receiving legally for legitimate pain they had. However, they may not realize that they developed an addiction until their prescription ran out. After that point, they must find a new way to feed the biological craving they are feeling. Symptoms of heroin addiction include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Secretive behavior
  • Changes in appearance
  • Lack of motivation
  • Extreme drowsiness or nodding off
  • Financial problems/borrowing money
  • Depression
  • Constipation
  • Slurred speech
  • Paranoia
  • Shortness of breath
  • Collapsed veins
  • Severe itchiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Studies report that 80% of the people addicted to heroin once started by using a prescription opioid. After they’ve grown addicted, and their prescription has run out, many turn to purchasing the drug illicitly. It is only after desperation sets in that they will turn to heroin, a cheaper and more potent alternative. Black tar heroin is generally relatively cheap and easy to locate in the Central and Western United States.

Treatment For Black Tar Heroin Addiction

If you or someone you love suffer from addiction to black tar or any kind of heroin, do not be afraid to seek help. Many cases of addiction start innocently, with someone just trying to manage physical pain. The worst thing you can do is close yourself off. It will just allow your addiction to grow while you push away those closest to you. Contact a treatment provider today.