What Does Heroin Look Like? December 6th, 2019 The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake
Blog & News What Does Heroin Look Like?

What Does Heroin Look Like?

White powder in a spoon with a syringe and pills.

Heroin is an opioid drug that’s highly addictive. Processed from morphine, heroin is illegal and causes a potent high along with many risks and negative side effects. How heroin looks depends on what kind it is and how it’s processed. The most common type of heroin is a white or brown powder. There’s also black tar heroin.

White heroin is the purest form of the drug, but it is frequently cut or mixed with other substances which reduce the purity. Depending on what else heroin contains and the chemicals used for processing, it may also appear pink, beige or off-white.

Brown heroin is a powder similar to white powder heroin, but it’s less refined. The brownish color indicates this type of heroin is less purified than white powder heroin and it’s usually cheaper.

Black tar heroin is brown or black. It looks and feels similar to tar, with a sticky consistency. This stickiness is the result of how black tar heroin is processed. The color can vary depending on what was used to process the heroin and how pure the final product is. Most black tar heroin comes from Mexico and contains minimal pure heroin. Black tar heroin is the cheapest and easiest type to produce.

Methods of Heroin Use

How is heroin used? Heroin is used in different ways. One of the most common ways to use heroin is through injection into a muscle or vein. With injection, the euphoric high of the drug is more powerful than other methods of administration. Injecting heroin also tends to lead to the fastest onset of the high.

Injecting heroin leads to a greater risk of addiction and dependence compared to other ways of using it. Someone who injects heroin is also more likely to develop a tolerance faster than a person who uses heroin in other ways. With intravenous use, people often become addicted to heroin after using it only one or two times because of how quickly and strongly the drug affects their brain. Injection also increases the risk of an overdose and creates other risks such as infections being passed through dirty needles.

When someone injects heroin, it first has to be made into a liquid. The powder or tar forms of heroin aren’t injectable without doing so. To inject heroin, the drug is placed on a spoon or piece of foil and heated after being mixed with a liquid.

Heroin can also be smoked or snorted. Sometimes people begin using heroin by smoking or snorting it because they feel it’s less dangerous or there’s less stigma compared to injecting it. Often this still leads to injecting heroin.  

Street Names for Heroin

What are some street names for heroin? As with most drugs, there are quite a few slang terms that might be used to refer to heroin. Sometimes these street names can stem from the appearance of the heroin or its location of origin. Other street names for heroin may refer to the effects of the drug. Street names include:

  •        Smack
  •        H
  •        Tar
  •        Dope
  •        Junk
  •        Brown sugar
  •        China white
  •        White
  •        White lady
  •        White nurse
  •        White horse
  •        White stuff
  •        He
  •        Black pearl
  •        Brown crystal
  •        Mexican brown
  •        Mexican mud
  •        Snowball
  •        Skunk

Slang terms that refer to the use of heroin include:

  •        Chasing the dragon
  •        Daytime and evening
  •        Dip and dab
  •        Jolly pop
  •        Paper boy
  •        Channel swimmer

When heroin is combined with a stimulant such as crack cocaine, it’s known as “speedballing.”

Finding Treatment for Heroin Addiction

People struggling with heroin addiction should know that resources are available. Professional addiction treatment can help someone deal with the physical and psychological components of heroin abuse and addiction. Contact The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake today for more information about treatment for heroin addiction.


NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Heroin.” June 2018. Accessed February 26, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.