Black Tar Heroin: The Menace from Mexico

Young Adult waiting holding on the fence

Heroin is a dangerous drug that wreaks havocs on the lives of those who use it. It is highly addictive, easy to overdose on, increases the risk of contracting contagious diseases like HIV, and, like other types of drugs, can destroy relationships and lives.

There has been an increase in the use of heroin across the country, largely blamed on the epidemic of addiction to narcotic painkillers. Because it is cheaper, and often easier to access, many prescription pill addicts are turning to heroin. What could make the situation even worse is the presence of black tar heroin on the market. Brought in mostly from Mexico, this cheaper and more dangerous form of the drug could increase the number of deaths among heroin users.

What Is Heroin?

Heroin is a substance that is made synthetically, but is based on morphine, a natural compound from the opium poppy. It was first made in the late 1800s and was used as a painkiller and a cough suppressant. It was effective, but also, as was soon discovered, extremely addictive. Heroin is now a Schedule I controlled substance and illegal for most people to have.

Most abusers inject heroin, but it can also be smoked or injected. It is typically sold as a powder that contains fillers, sometimes dangerous and harmful ones. In the short-term, heroin makes the user feel a euphoric rush, or a high. It also causes dry mouth, drowsiness, flushing of the skin, poor mental functioning, slurred speech, vomiting and constipation. Overdose is possible, even on the first try. With long term use, heroin causes collapsed veins, heart infections, liver disease, pneumonia and addiction.

What Is Black Tar Heroin?

Black tar heroin is a more dangerous form of the drug that poses a real public health threat as the number of heroin users rises. Black tar heroin is attractive to addicts because it costs so little. The low cost is due to the fact that this type of heroin can be produced without much equipment. The result is an unrefined product. It does not necessarily contain less heroin than other products, but it does contain more contaminants that are costly to remove.

Compared to regular heroin, which is a white to yellowish powder, black tar heroin is brown or black in color, and has a sticky feeling. In addition to being cheaper, black tar heroin is also more dangerous. Because of its sticky texture, this type of heroin causes veins to collapse much more quickly. Users have to switch injection sites often, destroying veins as they go. To avoid ruining their veins, some users may inject black tar heroin subcutaneously. This practice can lead to dangerous infections.

Most black tar heroin is produced in Latin America and comes into the U.S. through Mexico. For the last decade, most of the product has been seen in Western states, where it is sold by drug dealers looking to make money on a new, cheaper product. In recent years, however, black tar heroin has been spreading eastward. It is seen in rural areas in the Midwest, in particular, where heroin addicts are in search of a cheaper high. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency sees black tar heroin as a rising threat. The agency reports that the product is expected to continue moving east into new markets.

The continued rise in abuse of prescription painkillers and heroin is a major problem in the U.S. The influx of black tar heroin will only make it worse as addicts look for better access to cheaper products. Unfortunately, many will eventually pay the price.

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