What Is Black Tar Heroin? - Vertava Health of Ohio

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What Is Black Tar Heroin?

Black tar heroin is a sticky, tar-like form of heroin that carries the same health risks of powdered forms of heroin, and more. Black tar is also highly-addictive, and in the case of overdose, can be deadly. To overcome an addiction to heroin, treatment within an inpatient rehab program is recommended.

Black tar heroin is a sticky, tar-like form of heroin that carries the same health risks of powdered forms of heroin, and more. Black tar is also highly-addictive, and in the case of overdose, can be deadly. To overcome an addiction to heroin, treatment within an inpatient rehab program is recommended.

What Is Black Tar Heroin?

Heroin is an addictive drug derived from the opium poppy plant that is illegal for both medical and non-medical use in the United States. This drug can be manufactured into a couple different forms, including a white powder and a solid form of heroin known as ‘black tar’ – named for its sticky, tar-like appearance. 

Although both forms of heroin generally have the same effects, they differ in where they originate, where they are found in the United States, and drug purity.

Other names for black tar heroin include:

  • black
  • pigment
  • tar
  • black clown
  • ache (pronounced ‘atchay’)
  • piedra (Spanish word for ‘stone’)
  • chiva (Spanish word for ‘young goat’)
  • nut job

Like powdered heroin, black tar carries the same high risk for addiction, tolerance, and overdose. Black tar also poses several unique dangers and health risks, depending on how it is used and other factors related to drug use. 

If you someone you know is using black tar heroin, treatment within an inpatient drug rehab program is the most effective option to safely stop using heroin and overcome addiction.

What’s The Difference Between Black Tar And Powdered Heroin?

All samples of heroin can be dangerous, no matter what form it comes in. Unlike prescription drugs, drugs that are sold illegally are not regulated by federal authorities. This can result in heroin that is cut with additional substances like burned cornstarch, sugar, and baking soda. In some cases, even more toxic substances may be added into the mix.  

However, there are also several ways in which the two forms of heroin differ:

  • Appearance: Powdered heroin, which comes primarily from Colombia, has the appearance of a white powder that can be snorted, smoked, or dissolved into a liquid, injectable form. Black tar, on the other hand, is a dark, solid substance that can be heated and smoked, inhaled, or dissolved into an injectable form. 


  • Place of origin: Black tar heroin is manufactured primarily in Mexico, where ingredients are processed to create either a dark, tar-like substance or a hardened rock form similar to a piece of coal. From Mexico, the black tar is transported and distributed across the border into the United States.


  • Use in the United States: While powdered heroin is most often found in eastern parts of the United States, black tar has more often been associated with western regions due to its close proximity to the Mexican border. Before recently, the Mississippi River had been considered the reference point separating the different heroin markets. Within the past few years, however, reports on black tar heroin use have shown a slight shift, with black tar now reaching some states further east, such as Ohio. 


  • Purity: The two forms are also believed to differ in their purity, although this has been a subject of some dispute. The purity of black tar is estimated between 25 to 30 percent, a lower number than many powder samples. Others argue that the purity of black tar can vary even more, depending on the manufacturer and drug processing methods.

Scope Of Black Tar Heroin Use

Over the last decade, heroin use has experienced a notable rise in the United States, with Ohio being one of the states with the highest rates of heroin-related deaths.

Although it is difficult to identify the scope of one form of heroin from another, data from federal agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have observed dramatic spikes in heroin-related deaths following a devastating wave of prescription opioid overdose deaths. 

Compared to prescription opioids such as OxyContin, heroin is often easier for people to get a hold of – and cheaper. According to the CDC, three out of four people who began using heroin between 2000 and 2013 had previously misused prescription opioids. This means that for many, prescription opioids become a gateway to illegal opioids like heroin.

Effects Of Black Tar Heroin

Black tar heroin can be smoked, inhaled, or injected, leading to quick and powerful effects on the brain and throughout the body. This can have short and long-term effects on various aspects of a person’s wellbeing, including physical health, mental health, and behavior.

Short-term effects of black tar heroin can include:

  • euphoria
  • relaxation
  • drowsiness
  • flushed skin
  • dry mouth
  • decreased heart rate
  • slow breathing
  • nausea and vomiting
  • itching

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Through chronic use, people who use black tar may also begin experiencing a number of other long-term effects of heroin use, such as:

  • collapsed veins
  • difficulty sleeping
  • constipation
  • stomach pain
  • depression
  • irregular menstrual cycle or erectile dysfunction

Dangers Of Black Tar Heroin

Through chronic use, black tar can increase a person’s risk for developing several diseases, visible signs of poor physical health, and overdose – which can be fatal.

Like powdered forms of heroin, use of black tar can lead to tolerance over time and a psychological addiction to the drug, making it difficult to stop one’s use. Depending on how it’s manufactured, purity, and personal factors related to someone’s use of the drug, black tar can also risk a number of other serious dangers. 

Health complications and dangers of using black tar heroin can include:

  • venous sclerosis (narrowed and hardened veins)
  • increased risk for soft-tissue infections
  • lung problems 
  • damaged nasal tissue (if snorting the drug)
  • perforated septum 
  • infectious endocarditis
  • severe mental health problems
  • liver and kidney disease
  • arthritis
  • high risk for overdose and death

It’s also important to recognize the other ways heroin addiction can negatively affect a person’s life. Living with addiction can have serious consequences in all areas of a person’s daily life, and may lead to job loss, relationship problems, financial problems, and legal troubles. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to heroin, it is never too late to seek treatment. In the state of Ohio, and across the country, there are a number of different treatment options to help people overcome their physical and psychological dependence on heroin.

Seeking Treatment For Black Tar Heroin Addiction In Ohio

Heroin addiction can become as much a mental struggle as a physical one, with much of the difficulty of overcoming addiction lying in drug cravings and the discomfort of the withdrawal process.

Attempting to stop heroin cold-turkey can be uncomfortable at best, and dangerous at its most severe. The safest and most effective way to detox from heroin and recover from addiction is to enter a drug rehab program for medically-supervised detox. 

At Vertava Health of Ohio treatment center, we offer full inpatient rehab programs for people seeking help for heroin and opioid abuse. For most people, this process will begin with detox under the care of our onsite medical professionals, followed by a structured treatment program.

Treatment for drug and alcohol abuse at Vertava Health of Ohio is personalized to meet each patient’s individual needs, and may include:

  • individual counseling
  • group therapy
  • medication-assisted treatment
  • family/couples therapy
  • adventure therapy
  • holistic treatments
  • and more

To learn more about black tar heroin addiction and addiction rehab at Vertava Health of Ohio, contact one of our treatment specialists online or by calling (888) 481-7821 today.


New York Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (NY OASAS) — FYI Black Tar Heroin

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — Heroin Overdose Data

U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Research Report Series: Heroin


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