Heroin is an opiate drug made from morphine, a substance derived from poppy plants indigenous to regions in Southeast Asia, and produced in Afghanistan and Mexico. There are different forms of heroin, distinctive by their appearance and purity. These include white powder, brown powder, and black tar heroin.
Black tar heroin is less pure than white, powdered heroin. Because of this, black tar heroin is cheaper and more accessible. This form of heroin is associated with some unique health risks among heroin users. All types of heroin, however, can result in increased tolerance, dependence, and ultimately addiction. Continue reading to learn more about the specific dangers unique to black tar heroin.
About Black Tar Heroin
Black tar heroin is a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance that carries a very high potential for physical and psychological addiction. The drug is dissolved and diluted so it can be injected into muscles, veins, or under the skin.
Black tar heroin is the only form of the drug that comes in a solid form, versus a powder and looks exactly as its name implies, a black, sticky, or hard substance. Black tar heroin is produced in Mexico and is more predominant in the western United States.
Effects of Heroin
The majority of people who struggle with heroin originally started with prescription opioids. According to a report by the Department of Justice, 80% of heroin users first misused prescription pain relievers, such as oxycodone or hydrocodone. The common effects that people experience when using heroin include:
- Deep relaxation
- Feeling drowsy; nodding off
- Lack of coordination
- Difficulty thinking
- Respiratory depression
- Pinpoint pupils
- Severe itching
- Dry mouth
In addition, black tar heroin use has certain serious long-term effects. These include:
- Venous Sclerosis. This occurs when the blood vessel walls become hardened and eventually unusable.
- Tetanus. Tetanus is a bacterial infection that comes from contaminated needles. The needles have toxic spores present from the bacteria Clostridium tetani.
- Necrotizing Fasciitis. Also called “flesh-eating bacteria,” it is caused by using contaminated needles to inject black tar heroin.
- Wound Botulism. This serious disease can occur when a germ called Clostridium botulinum gains entry through black tar injection under the skin.
- Gas Gangrene. The Clostridium perfringens bacteria enters the bloodstream when injecting the heroin, and is potentially life-threatening.
Other adverse effects caused by all types of heroin include collapsed veins, abscesses, heart infections, contracting infections diseases like HIV or hepatitis B or C, liver disease, seizures, and overdose.
Signs of Heroin Addiction
Being able to recognize the signs of heroin addiction will provide loved ones with an opportunity to intervene before it’s too late.
Some of the signs of heroin dependency or addiction include:
- Finding Drug Paraphernalia. Burned spoons, syringes or orange syringe caps, tin foil with burn marks, pipes, small plastic bags containing heroin, hollowed out pens, balloons, and straws with burn marks.
- Physical Signs. Physical signs of heroin use include needle marks seen on the forearms, legs, and feet. There may also be scabs, bruising, and unhealed track marks. If cellulitis has developed, the skin will be red and swollen. Other physical signs include nodding off, constant sniffing and runny nose, weight loss, chronic constipation, tiny pupils, and grayish skin pallor.
- Behavioral Signs. People who use heroin are secretive. They may avoid eye contact, avoid family and friends, or steal money to purchase the drug. Also, they may have slurred speech, act apathetic and lethargic, lose interest in their usual activities and hobbies, sleep more, exhibit mood swings, and ignore personal hygiene.
- Withdrawal Symptoms. When the drug is not available, the person will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms when the effects wear off. Withdrawal symptoms mimic a bad flu, such as stomach pain, vomiting, bone and joint pain, nausea and vomiting, profuse sweating, chills, and fever.
Heroin use, including black tar heroin, has impacted people from all walks of life over the past decade. This has resulted in about 15,000 deaths per year directly attributed to a heroin overdose. When the warning signs of heroin addiction are present, it is good to know that help is available.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.