What Does Heroin Look Like?

Heroin will look different depending on its form — powder, sticky rock-like substance, liquid, or other. All forms of heroin lead to adverse side effects and risk of addiction.

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Dr. Langdon M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Kimberly Langdon M.D.


Heroin has many different forms. It can come in a powder form, a black sticky substance called black tar heroin, or even in a liquid form.

All forms of heroin come from poppy plants. Opium poppy plants are the base for all opiate drugs. Sometimes heroin is mixed with additives which can change its appearance.

If you are concerned that a loved one is engaging in heroin drug use, it may help to know what the different forms of heroin look like.

Learn more about how to identify heroin

How Common Forms Of Heroin Appear

Heroin can take many forms. Pure heroin might look different from most other types of street heroin. Here is more information on how to identify all the different forms of heroin.

What Powder Heroin Looks Like

White Powdered HeroinBrown Powdered Heroin

Heroin can come in a powdered form, ranging in color from white to dark brown. Heroin in powdered form can be used for snorting or it can be boiled into a liquid for injecting or smoking.

Powdered heroin is sometimes called “hell dust” on the street. This form of the drug is rarely pure heroin. It is often cut with other substances like sugar or powdered milk.

Although heroin may appear as a white powder in its purest form, white powder heroin is not an indication that the drug is pure. It could still be cut with other drugs or substances.

What Black Tar Heroin Looks Like

What Does Black Tar Heroin Look Like?

Black tar heroin gets its name from its appearance. This form of heroin is more common on the west coast of the United States. It is often smuggled into the country from Mexico.

Black tar heroin looks like a sticky black or dark brown substance. Since it can’t be snorted, this form is most often boiled down and injected or smoked.

If smoked, people using the drug place black tar heroin on aluminum foil or gum wrappers and heat it up until it steams and smokes. They often inhale the smoke through a straw or pipe.

What Liquid Or “Lean” Heroin Looks Like

Liquid Heroin

When heroin is heated up to smoke or inject it, it “melts” into a liquid form. This liquid can then be drawn in through a syringe and needle. It will usually be somewhat translucent and might have little specks of material in it.

If it gets even hotter, liquid heroin will begin to steam and smoke. This is how the drug can be inhaled.

What Synthetic Heroin Looks Like

Synthetic Heroin

Sometimes, white powder or brown powder heroin is cut with fentanyl or other prescription opioids. Fentanyl is an extremely powerful synthetic prescription opioid that increases the risk of overdose.

This type of heroin is commonly referred to as synthetic heroin. A lot of heroin in the U.S. is currently being cut with fentanyl.

Any type of heroin can be cut with this deadly substance. With the presence of fentanyl, heroin substance use is more dangerous now than ever before.

Health Risks Associated With Heroin Addiction

Heroin abuse has many health risks. Some are associated with the type of abuse, while others apply to all methods of heroin use.

General risks of heroin drug abuse include:

  • increased risk for infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis
  • drowsiness and mental fog
  • depression and anxiety
  • lung problems
  • bacterial infections
  • slowed heart rate
  • overdose

Treatment Options For Heroin Abuse

Heroin drug use needs to be treated in a certified addiction treatment center. The long-term effects of heroin abuse can be deadly, and overdose can happen at any time.

The best treatment centers employ an evidence-based approach to address addiction.

This might include interventions such as medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which uses drugs like methadone to block receptors in the brain that make heroin so addictive.

Learn more about treatment options for heroin.

Find Heroin Addiction Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center

Bedrock Recovery Center is one of the east coast’s top addiction treatment facilities.

Call our helpline today to start your journey to recovery through one of our comprehensive heroin treatment programs.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — Heroin Overdose Data https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/deaths/heroin/index.html
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Heroin DrugFacts https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment
  4. The U.S. Department of Justice — Drug Paraphernalia Fast Facts https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs6/6445/6445p.pdf
  5. United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) –– Heroin https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/heroin

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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