What is Black Tar Heroin? October 31st, 2019 The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake
Blog & News What is Black Tar Heroin?

What is Black Tar Heroin?

Syringe on the ground in dirt.

Because of its distinct name, many people wonder, “What is black tar heroin?” Black tar heroin has most of the same effects as other types of heroin. The primary differences between black tar heroin and powder heroin include the drug’s appearance as well as the potential risks that can come with using it because black tar heroin is often less pure.

Black tar heroin resembles sticky tar, or it can be hard in consistency. It’s usually very dark because it’s crudely processed and impurities remain. Black tar heroin can also be dark orange or dark brown, and it tends to be cheaper than other types of heroin. During processing, black tar heroin can be mixed with inexpensive, low-quality substances like lactose.

Origins of Black Tar Heroin

The origins of black tar heroin and the history of black tar heroin typically involve Mexico, where the drug is largely made. In some cases, black tar heroin may also come from South America, and both Southeast and Southwest Asia. Black tar heroin is predominantly found in the western part of the United States, but it does sometimes appear in the northeast United States, the western regions of Canada and some parts of Europe.

In the mid-1990s black tar heroin became especially prevalent because of its inexpensive costs. Over the past decade, the distribution of powder heroin has dropped while the distribution of black tar heroin increased.

Effects of Black Tar Heroin

Black tar heroin has many of the same effects as other types of heroin. Black tar heroin effects include:

  • Slowdown of the central nervous system
  • Euphoric, rapid high
  • Heavy limbs
  • Foggy or confused thinking
  • Dry mouth
  • Nodding off
  • Flushed skin
  • Risk of overdose
  • Addiction
  • Dependence

Black tar heroin effects can also include:

  • Venous sclerosis which causes narrowing and hardening of veins with the injection of black tar heroin
  • Vein collapse
  • Bacterial infection
  • Necrotizing fasciitis
  • Botulism which can lead to paralysis if untreated

How Black Tar Heroin Is Used

How is black tar heroin used? Black tar heroin is not injected as often as other types of heroin because of the impurities, although sometimes injection may be the route of administration.

Other ways black tar heroin is used include:

  • Grinding it into a powder form and mixing it with a substance like lactose, thus allowing the substance to be snorted
  • Water looping which is when heroin is placed in an object like an eyedropper, dissolved and then dropped into the nose
  • Vaporizing which is sometimes called “chasing the dragon” where someone puts heroin on foil, heats it, and uses a straw to inhale the vapor

Get Help for Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction is not easy to overcome, but professional help is available. Contact The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake, and a representative can help you learn more about heroin addiction treatment.


NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Heroin.” June 2018. Accessed April 5, 2019.

Frankel, Todd. “Following heroin’s path from Mexico to the Midwest” Washington Post, September 24, 2015. Accessed April 12, 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.