Black Tar Heroin Withdrawal and Treatment Option - The Discovery House

Black Tar Heroin

Heroin is an opioid that’s derived from morphine – a substance that is extracted from opium poppy plants. These plants are indigenous to South Asia but they can be found in other parts of the world. Heroin is the most fast-acting opioid and one of the most abused. One of the most common forms encountered is ‘Mexican’ black tar heroin. 

It is a very addictive substance and even if you have no interest in using it, you may find it helpful to learn about it. Given the opioid epidemic sweeping the United States, knowing about the different types of heroin can help you to identify when a loved one needs help.

When you think about heroin, you may assume it’s a white powder. However, there are three main types of heroin and they each have a distinctive appearance. Pure heroin is indeed a white powder but heroin can also be a brown powder drug when it’s not fully refined.

On the other hand, black tar heroin isn’t a powder so it’s easily distinguishable from white and brown heroin.

What Does Black Tar Heroin Look Like?

As the name suggests, black tar heroin is dark and sticky and it looks a lot like roofing tar. It is the only type of heroin that is solid. Black tar heroin looks and feels the way it does because it is very crudely processed.

The color can vary from dark brown to black depending on what was added to cut the purity of the product.

What Does Black Tar Heroin Smell Like

What Does Black Tar Heroin Smell Like?

You may also be able to identify black tar heroin by its smell. What does black tar heroin smell like?

Heroin generally smells like vinegar but the black tar variety can smell even more strongly of vinegar because of the chemical processes it goes through. Heroin that is more refined is usually washed after it is synthesized. Therefore, it may have a fainter odor. 

Since black tar heroin is less pure and may contain different types of additives, the smell may be stronger. The scent may vary slightly from one batch to the other but black tar heroin will typically be more pungent than white or brown heroin.

How is Black Tar Heroin Made?

Black tar heroin is often produced in Mexico and it is, therefore, most popular in the western parts of the United States. It usually contains a low amount of pure heroin and it is faster to produce and cheaper than brown or white heroin.

The less sophisticated refinement process means it can more quickly be transported to users and drops the typical black tar heroin price below that of other forms of the drug. The lower cost and easy availability make it attractive to people who are dependent or addicted.

How to Use Black Tar Heroin

Generally, heroin is injected, snorted or sniffed, or smoked. Black tar heroin is most often injected since it can be easily dissolved in water. However, some people smoke it. Snorting or sniffing is less common. If someone is using heroin, you may see certain paraphernalia lying out including:

  • Syringes
  • Straws or hollow pens
  • Lighters
  • Aluminum foil
  • A burned spoon
  • Cotton balls 
  • A belt or shoelace

Black Tar Heroin: Effects on the Body

Regardless of which type of heroin a person uses, the general effects are the same. The drug quickly goes to the brain where it becomes morphine once again.

Heroin is popular because it results in a sense of euphoria almost immediately. People who use heroin also experience contentment, apathy, and reduced anxiety and tension.

In the short term, they may have to deal with:

  • Dry mouth
  • Flushed skin
  • Clouded thinking
  • Drowsiness
  • Heavy limbs

If an individual uses black tar heroin, they will experience these effects. Though enjoyable at first, they also make it hard to stop using. The longer a person uses heroin, the more likely it is that they will damage their health.

Dangers of Black Tar Heroin

Some people think that black tar heroin is weaker or less dangerous because it is less pure. This can lead to overdose since an individual may think they need to use more to get the same effects.

While black tar heroin is often around 30 percent pure, purity varies widely. Black tar heroin is also dangerous because it contains various types of harmful additives. 

Black tar heroin, like all types of heroin, can lead to dependence, addiction, and a wide range of other health issues. People who inject the drug into their veins may develop venous sclerosis.

This is a condition in which the veins narrow and harden. The veins may eventually collapse and make it impossible for the individual to inject into the same vein again. Many turn to another vein or inject the drug into muscle instead.

Using black tar heroin can also lead to life-threatening bacterial infections. One of them is necrotizing fasciitis which is best known as “flesh-eating disease”. Another is wound botulism, a condition that mostly occurs in heroin users.

While wound botulism can’t be cured, it can be managed if the individual seeks prompt medical attention.

Over the long term, people who use heroin may also experience: 

  • Lung disease
  • Insomnia
  • Infection of the valves and lining of the heart
  • Stomach cramps and constipation
  • Abscesses
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Mental disorders
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Irregular menstrual cycles

The Risk of Overdosing on Heroin

An overdose occurs when an individual takes too much of a drug, and it can be deadly. With illegal drugs like heroin, it’s very difficult to know the strength of the product you’re using. Anyone can overdose; it doesn’t matter if they’ve only recently started using heroin or they’ve been using it for a long time. It’s even possible to overdose the first time you use heroin. 

Symptoms of overdose include:

  • Weak pulse
  • Shallow breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Delirium
  • Disorientation 
  • Uncontrollable muscle movements 
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Tongue discoloration

A person who overdoses on heroin needs immediate medical attention or an injection of Narcan. This medication, also known as naloxone, can stop an overdose before it becomes deadly.

The Risk of Overdosing on Heroin

The Risk of Becoming Addicted to Heroin

Many people who become addicted to heroin actually start with an addiction to prescription opioids like Oxycontin or Vicodin. They may not even realize they have become addicted to their pain medications until the prescription runs out and they begin to experience uncomfortable symptoms. Many seek out illicit prescription drugs on the street. 

However, some people eventually switch to another opioid because that’s cheaper or more easily available. Black tar heroin is often the substance of choice in the Central and Western United States because it’s easier to acquire than purer forms of heroin or other opioids.

If you are able to recognize the symptoms of heroin addiction, you can encourage your loved one to seek professional help before it’s too late. There are several indicators that an individual may have a black tar heroin addiction.

Physical Signs

  • A dark, sticky substance, burned spoons, syringes, tin foil, hollowed-out pens, or straws
  • Needle marks on the forearms, feet, or legs
  • Scabs, bruising, unhealed track marks
  • A constant runny nose
  • Weight loss
  • Grayish skin
  • Frequent ‘nodding off’ or losing consciousness for brief periods

Behavioral Signs

  • Slurred speech
  • Lethargy and apathy
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Mood swings
  • Lack of attention to personal hygiene
  • Isolation from relatives friends
  • Stealing money to purchase heroin

People who are addicted to heroin need to undergo a medical detox program followed by rehab and professional aftercare.

What Happens During Heroin Detox 

Recovering from a heroin addiction must start with detox. As the body cleanses itself of heroin, the individual will experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms vary somewhat from person to person but people often experience:

  • Intense drug cravings
  • Problems concentrating
  • Irritability 
  • Chills and sweating
  • Tremors
  • Bone and muscle aches
  • Muscle spasms
  • Impaired breathing
  • Abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Withdrawal symptoms occur because the body gets used to large amounts of heroin and/or regular use of heroin. Over time, the brain stops producing opioid chemicals at normal levels. When a person no longer uses heroin, the brain and body will respond negatively.

Having round-the-clock medical supervision during this time helps to ensure the individual is safe and as comfortable as possible. If necessary, medications can be administered to reduce the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms. Medications can also be used in conjunction with behavioral therapies to help the individual maintain their sobriety.

The Withdrawal Timeline

The duration of withdrawal symptoms depends on several factors. Acute physical symptoms can run for a few days to a week but some people experience psychological symptoms for months. Symptoms may also come and go. However, a typical timeline may look something like this:

  • 6-24 hours. Fully detoxing can take several days but withdrawal symptoms can begin within six hours of the last dose. These include tremors, muscle pain, anxiety, heroin cravings, and insomnia.
  • 1 to 3 days. Symptoms typically peak within the first three days. The symptoms the individual experienced during the first 24 hours may worsen and new symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, fatigue, irritability, stomach aches may occur.
  • 4 to 7 days.  The physical symptoms gradually lessen after three days but the psychological symptoms remain.
  • 1 week to several months. Withdrawal can last a long time, especially if the individual has used black tar heroin or any type of heroin for an extended period. Insomnia, anxiety, depression, and irritability can continue. If these psychological get worse or don’t go away, the person may need treatment for a co-occurring disorder.

Regardless of how long the withdrawal symptoms last, they can be very uncomfortable to experience. This is why some people start using drugs again. Individuals need professional support to complete the detox process and move on to the next stage of recovery.

What to Do If You Suspect Someone is Addicted to Black Tar Heroin

What to Do If You Suspect Someone is Addicted to Black Tar Heroin

You now know what black tar heroin is and how dangerous it can be in both the long and short term. You also know the importance of professional help for people who are addicted. It is extremely difficult to quit heroin alone and there’s no need for it when there are qualified professionals who can help. 

If your spouse, child, or close friend seems to be addicted to drugs, you need to talk to them and recommend that they seek help from the experts. If you’re unsure about how to approach them, you can seek advice from addiction counselors. 

It’s important to note that no one chooses to become addicted to black tar heroin or any other drug. Some people begin using substances because they want to dull negative emotions. Others started out using prescription opioids for pain and then became dependent on the drug. 

A person who is addicted to heroin may deny they have a problem even though the signs are clear. They may also push you away. While you can’t force them to seek help, you can advise them. No matter how long an individual has been using heroin, long-term recovery is possible with the right help.

Contact The Discovery House Today!

Our luxury rehab facility in Southern California provides a full continuum of care from supervised detox to inpatient rehab and long-term support. We cater to the whole individual so our programs address the emotional, behavioral, social, and mental components of addiction.

If a client has co-occurring disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and personality disorders.

We maintain a 3:1 client to counselor ratio and treatment is always tailored specifically to the individual’s needs and goals. At The Discovery House, we provide a serene, comfortable environment in which people can focus on their recovery. 

We accept insurance policies from several companies including: 

  • Aetna Health Insurance
  • Assurant Health
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield
  • Cigna Health Insurance
  • Healthnet
  • Humana
  • United Healthcare
  • UPMC
  • ValueOptions Behavioral Health Care

Contact us today to learn more about our treatment options for black tar heroin addiction.