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What Is Black Tar Heroin?

4 minute read

Black tar heroin is a black, sticky form of heroin. It’s similar in consistency and appearance to roofing tar, which is where it gets the name. On the street, it’s simply known as black tar, black pearls, or Mexican mud. Typically produced in Mexico, black tar heroin is most popular West of the Mississippi River. Its consistency makes it difficult to inject, so some black tar heroin users dilute it with liquid and heat it for injection. Others will smoke it on foil. The black tar form of heroin is also sometimes taken by mixing it with hot water and squirting it into the nose. This method is sometimes called monkey water, waterloo, waterlining, or shebang.

Black tar heroin is usually cheaper than white powdered heroin because of the quicker, less refined process of making it. The purity of black tar is estimated to be around 30% in general, but it’s impossible to know exact purity or strength because of the way it’s cut with other substances. Black tar heroin is just as dangerous as other types of heroin.

Signs of Black Tar Heroin Use

If you suspect a loved one is abusing black tar heroin, look for these black tar paraphernalia and signs of black tar heroin addiction as detailed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

  • Burnt spoons or bottle caps
  • Eye dropper or other way to squirt liquid
  • Burnt foil
  • Tourniquet, belt, or other arm tie
  • Cotton balls
  • Needles and syringes
  • Track marks on arms or legs
  • Changes in mood and personality
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Sleeping longer or at odd times
  • Dozing (“nodding off”)
  • Runny nose
  • Glassy eyes and small pupils
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Financial troubles
  • Trouble at work

Dangers of Black Tar Use

Heroin puts your physical and mental health in jeopardy. Using any form of heroin comes with the same risks and dangers. Short-term and long-term effects of black tar heroin abuse can include:

Brain Damage

Short-term effects of heroin release excessive amounts of dopamine in the brain. The long-term effects of this depletes neurotransmitters of brain chemicals and teaches the brain that it needs heroin to function. This causes withdrawal and detox in the absence of heroin and can lead to mental illness symptoms of anxiety and depression. Heroin can also cause frontal lobe damage, which impacts attention, memory, and spatial awareness. A heroin overdose can cause lack of oxygen to the brain leading to overdose and long-term effects on movement, mood, memory, vision, and other important functions.

Heart Attack

Injecting black tar heroin can lead to heart infections. Other cardiovascular effects of heroin use include heart failure, low blood pressure, blood vessel damage, collapsed veins, and heart attack.

Infections and Illness

Heroin can suppress and decrease B and T immune cells. It can lower your ability to fight infections, bacteria, and viruses. The way you use black tar heroin and other forms of the drug can also put you at risk for illness. People who use heroin as an injection drug and share needles are at risk for HIV and hepatitis C. One study found that black tar heroin users were at higher risk for wound botulism, which can lead to breathing difficulties, muscle weakness, and be fatal.

Heroin Overdose

Whatever the form, prescription opioids, powdered heroin, or black tar heroin, you’re always at risk for overdose. Heroin abuse can slow down your breathing and heart rate so much that you go into respiratory failure and overdose. You’re also at high risk for overdose any time you take it because it is often cut with highly potent substances like fentanyl or other toxins where only a small amount can cause an overdose.

Get Help For Addiction

Drug and alcohol addictions rob you of the life you are meant to live. We can help you reclaim that life. Our addiction treatment centers offer evidence-based care for substance abuse and co-occurring disorders. Our treatment providers are highly credentialed behavioral health professionals and addiction medicine experts that are compassionate and caring. They draw upon both traditional and alternative substance use disorder treatments so you can experience whole-body healing.

Highlights of our drug rehab programs include:

  • Alcohol and drug detox
  • Inpatient drug rehab
  • Outpatient programs
  • Dual diagnosis treatment
  • Medication-assisted therapy (MAT)
  • Individual, group, and family therapy
  • Trauma-focused therapies like EMDR
  • Holistic types of treatment like art therapy, massage therapy, and yoga

If you or a loved one is struggling with black tar heroin addiction, reach out to us with questions about treatment. We offer free, confidential consultations.



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