Heroin is a type of opioid drug that is highly addictive and illegal to possess. It is derived from morphine in the opium poppy plant, often originating in South America or Mexico.
People use heroin in one of three formulations including powder form, solid form, or liquid form. It is also common for heroin to be mixed or cut with other drugs or substances to increase volume or potency.
Heroin By Formulation
Once the seed pods of the opium plant are harvested, the resulting substance can be refined to produce various forms of heroin.
While the appearance may differ, the overall physical and psychological effects will remain relatively constant.
Side effects of heroin use include:
- a euphoric feeling that lasts between four to six hours
- intense itching
- warm, flushed skin
- dry mouth
- irritability and mood swings
Below you will find more information on the many formulations of heroin, how they’re used, and how to differentiate the different forms.
Black Tar Heroin
Black tar heroin is the least refined version of the drug. It may be black or dark brown in color and have a sticky, tar-like consistency or be rock hard.
How Is Black Tar Heroin Made?
This form of heroin is the cheapest to make, as the refinement process is not as thorough as the powdered formulations of the drug.
How To Use Black Tar Heroin
There are several ways people can use black tar heroin including dissolving in a spoon for intravenous injection, or heating it up on a sheet of aluminum foil and inhaling the vapors. This is also known as “chasing the dragon”.
Powder heroin is a highly refined substance that has fine, granular quality. The powder form can come in different colors depending on the level of refinement.
White Powder Heroin
The purest version of heroin is a shiny white powder that has a bitter taste. Cutting agents used with white powder heroin include baking soda, corn starch, powdered milk, and laundry detergent.
Brown Powder Heroin
If heroin has a sandy or brownish color, it may have been refined from black tar heroin. If the color appears dull in powder heroin, it may indicate the heavy use of cutting agents or additives.
Black Tar Vs. Powder Heroin
While black tar heroin is commonly seen as “less pure” than powdered variations of the drug, both formulations have a strong and equally addictive effect on the person using them.
Powdered heroin is typically only snorted, but it can also be liquified and injected. Black tar heroin can’t be snorted but can be injected intravenously or smoked in a glass pipe.
Synthetic heroin can come in the form of prescription opioids that were created in a lab, such as fentanyl. Heroin may be mixed with drugs such as fentanyl to create a more intense high.
Fentanyl is a particularly dangerous cutting agent in heroin due to its powerful effects. When fentanyl is present in heroin, the risk of opioid overdose and overdose death increases substantially.
Other Types Of Heroin
There are several different types of heroin that have street names specific to their formulation.
“Cheese heroin” is black tar heroin that is mixed with Tylenol PM pills (acetaminophen). Cheese heroin often has the appearance of a tan or yellowish powder.
Blue heroin is a type of powder heroin that has a blue tint. This substance is characterized by the presence of both fentanyl and cocaine.
This type of heroin refers to heroin mixed with prescription opiates such as hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin), codeine, and other substances. The term “hillbilly heroin” references the prevalence of opioid abuse in rural America.
China White Heroin
This type of heroin is a white, powder form that is laced with the synthetic opioid fentanyl. Some people use the term “China white” to describe cocaine or generic powdered heroin.
Liquid heroin may refer to heroin mixed with other types of drugs, or a liquid form of black tar heroin that can be injected intravenously with a syringe.
“Pure” is a highly refined type of heroin that looks like shiny white powder. The purity is high due to the absence of cutting agents, chemicals, and other additives.
Skunk heroin is typically characterized by black tar heroin that is sprayed with cannabis. “Skunk” refers to the distinctive marijuana smell.
Pink heroin or “pinky” is heroin mixed with a range of synthetic opioids. The heroin has a light pink or white appearance in powder form.
Mexican Black Tar Heroin
This type of black tar heroin is produced in Mexico and smuggled into the United States. Mexican black tar heroin is typically only available in the southern and western regions of the U.S.
Treatment Programs For Heroin Drug Use
Attempting to stop taking heroin after prolonged abuse can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. A drug rehab center will offer a range of services that can help people in need get on a path to recovery.
Treatment options include:
- medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for heroin
- dual diagnosis care for co-occurring mental disorders
- individual and group counseling
- 12-step programs for drug and alcohol addiction
- aftercare services
An evidence-based rehab program can provide safe and effective treatment for withdrawal symptoms associated with heroin addiction.
Find Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center
Finding reputable treatment for heroin addiction can be stressful, but help is available. Call our helpline at Bedrock Recovery Center for more information about our inpatient treatment program.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Heroin DrugFacts https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin
- National Institute of Health (NIH) — Heroin in brown, black and white: Structural factors and medical consequences in the US heroin market https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2704563/
- U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) — Heroin https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/heroin