What is Black Tar Heroin? The Dark Reality of a Rising Drug

Jump to a section
Table of contents
Expand list

What is Black Tar Heroin?

Smoking Black Tar Heroin, or ‘Black Dragon’ is a relatively new form of ingesting heroin, becoming more and more common. It is a highly addictive opiate drug that is extracted from poppy plants and processed with morphine. Originating from Mexico, it is often found west of the Mississippi River in the US and Canada.

How is Black Tar Heroin Made?

The process of making black tar drugs is quicker and easier. Consequently, it is more economical than producing white or brown heroin. The difference between black tar heroin vs heroin is the method in which the heroin is prepared for use, resulting in a sticky, hard substance. Black tar heroin is cut with other substances, making it impossible to know the exact purity and strength of the lump of heroin. It is widely believed that because black tar heroin is not pure, (only 25-30% purity) it is less potent than regular heroin. This is a dangerous misconception because it can cause people to ingest more, and then overdose.


Back to top

What does Black Tar Heroin look like?

If you're wondering what does black tar heroin look like, black tar heroin is sticky, like roofing tar or wax, and hard like coal. It is dark in color because of the crude processing methods that leave behind the unrefined impurities. This is likely why it is called black tar heroin.

Back to top

What does Black Tar Heroin smell like?

Black tar heroin has a strong smell that is different than other forms of heroin. Although it can vary with every batch, it often smells acidic, like vinegar. It gets this smell through the chemical used in the drug’s production. Vinegar is used in the final stages of synthesis, but if the heroin is washed out well, it will not have the scent of vinegar.

Back to top

Street names for Black Tar Heroin

Black tar heroin has many different names on the street, including:

  • Big H
  • Chiba or Chiva
  • Hell Dust
  • Horse
  • Negra
  • Smack
  • Thunder
  • Junk
  • Brown Sugar
  • Skag
  • Mud
  • Dragon
  • Dope
  • China White
  • Snow or Snowball
  • Mexican Brown/Mud/Horse, Black Pearl/Eagle/Stuff/Tar
  • White Nurse/Lady/Horse/Girl/Boy/Stuff
  • Scat
  • Sack
  • Skunk

Back to top


Different types of Heroin

There are three different forms of heroin:

  1. Black tar heroin
  2. Brown powder heroin
  3. White powder heroin

Each form of heroin is ‘cut’ (mixed) with other substances. Many times, this results in more potent and dangerous form of the drug.

Diacetylmorphine is usually the main ingredient. Additionally, some of the following substances may be used:
phenolphthalein, paracetamol, fentanyl, tylenol PM, flour, cocaine, alprazolam, ecstasy, chalk, laundry detergent, rat poison and talcum powder.

On the black market, they know how to cut black tar heroin in a manner that is more cost effective. It is therefore impossible to know what is actually contained in an illicitly purchased lump of heroin.

Black tar heroin looks like a sticky, blackish substance. Brown powder heroin is the remnants of black tar heroin, just more refined and cut with lactose, and white powder heroin is the salt form of the drug (otherwise known as diacetylmorphine hydrochloride) and is cut with other white substances.

Purple heroin is another form of heroin that is becoming increasingly common, and is a combination of heroin and fentanyl.

Back to top

How do You Use Black Tar Heroin?

People often wonder about the different ways of ingesting this drug.

Can you smoke black tar heroin?

Smoking black tar heroin is a common method of ingestion, but it's not the only way. With the unfortunate increase of substance abuse in the US there are two other ways that black tar heroin is abused.

Can you snort black tar heroin?

The methods of consuming black tar heroin include smoking, snorting, and injecting. The powder form can be either smoked, snorted, or injected.  However, authentic Mexican black tar heroin is only produced in powder form and can only be smoked or injected.

Different methods of consuming heroin cause different long-term side effects. For example, snorting heroin can cause damage to the nose, throat, and lungs. Furthermore, being that the needles used are often not sterile,  injecting heroin can lead to infection of the heart lining and valves.

Back to top

Black Tar Heroin Side Effects

Black tar heroin causes side effects both shortly after use and after long-term use.

What are the short-term effects of black tar heroin?

In the short-term, snorting, injecting or smoking black tar heroin feels pleasant. Since heroin is a depressant, the immediate effects of the drug are a calm, relaxed feeling. The drug slows down the central nervous system (CNS) causing the internal organs to slow its pace.  In the event of overdose, it will shut down completely.

Soon after the initial pleasurable feelings, the user may feel the uncomfortable side effects of black tar heroin. Symptoms include:

  • Dry mouth,  nausea,
  • warm flushing of the skin
  • severe itching
  • slow heartrate and breathing
  • lethargy
  • constricted pupils
  • heavy extremities
  • constipation

Back to top

What are the long-term effects of smoking Black Tar Heroin?

There are many disturbing side-effects from constant misuse of black tar heroin. These effects are similar to powdered heroin abuse. Since heroin binds to the receptors in the brain, causing a dopamine rush, it can easily become addictive (aka heroin use disorder), or the user can become tolerant  and dependent on the drug.

The long-term mental black tar heroin effects include:

  • impulsivity
  • difficulty with decision-making
  • difficulty with self-regulation
  • outbursts
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • antisocial personality disorder, and
  • other mental health issues.

Some of the physical effects include:

  • insomnia
  • lung problems
  • heart problems
  • stroke
  • liver and kidney disease
  • irregular menstrual cycles for women
  • sexual dysfunction for men, and
  • a higher risk of tuberculosis, pneumonia, and overall organ failure.

Back to top

What does Heroin overdose look like?


When a person overdoses from heroin, the internal organs slow down to such a great extent that they eventually stop functioning altogether. The person takes slow and shallow breaths until the brain stops getting enough oxygen, causing a coma, brain damage and death. The common symptoms of a heroin overdose include snoring or gurgling sounds, shallow or no breathing, blue lips and/or fingernails, disorientation or no response, and floppy arms and legs.

If you see someone who is exhibiting these symptoms, call for emergency services right away as there is a chance that you can save that person from death.

Back to top

Signs of Black Tar Heroin Misuse

Unlike tobacco and marijuana smoke, the smoke of heroin does not linger in the air, making it difficult to identify if someone is smoking heroin.  Methods such as snorting and injecting heroin are also difficult to detect because they do not give off a smell at all.

However, there are different behavioral changes that are commonly detected in drug addicts, such as depression, euphoria, anxiety, agitation, loss of concentration, decreased academic and general performance, lack of motivation and mood swings.

They may also lie about their drug use and be in possession of glass pipes (smoking), needles or syringes (injecting), and burned spoons (snorting). The user may also experience hallucinations and paranoia and appear disorientated.

Physically, people who are addicted may sleep longer, have slurred speech, lose a lot of weight, have constricted pupils and extreme itchiness.

Back to top

Black Tar Heroin: Dark End of the Street

In a popular film that was released in the year 2000, five black tar heroin addict’s lives were displayed, over the course of three years. The film, called Black Tar Heroin: The Dark End of the Street, showed how these youths would resort to anything in order to get more money to fund their addiction. It also showed the terrible side-effects that these youths were dealing with, and their struggle to attempt to overcome their addiction. Many were deeply affected by this film, since it displayed in true color what their lives were like, and how difficult it is to get out of the rut of addiction.

Back to top

Smoking Black Tar- The Bottom Line

Smoking black tar heroin is dangerous since it can lead to addiction and even death, besides the other unpleasant short- and long-term side-effects.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to black tar heroin, know that there is help out there. It’s never too late to turn around your life and get

Check your insurance

We received your insurance request!

We will get back to you shortly. While you wait... you may find our resource blog helpful. Take a look below: