January 29, 2024

Black Tar Heroin: Effects, Identification, & Withdrawal

an image of someone who is struggling with an addiction to black tar heroin

Heroin is a Schedule I narcotic available in many forms, including black tar heroin. Drugs like black tar heroin have no recognized medical utility and a strong potential for addiction. Read on to learn more about the difference between heroin and black tar heroin.

What Is Black Tar Heroin?

Most of the world’s heroin is in the form of a white powder, except for a type of heroin called black tar heroin that comes from Mexico. Black tar heroin is different because it is sticky like tar and has a dark color because it is not processed very well. It can also appear as brown or orange.

Black tar heroin is not as pure as other types of heroin, which go through more steps to become pure after a chemical process called acetylation. Black tar heroin, on the other hand, does not go through those extra steps, and the unique consistency of the drug occurs because ithe substance is acetylated without using a special apparatus

Black Tar Heroin Effects

Black tar heroin, like all forms of the drug, is associated with myriad short-term and long-term complications.

Short-term effects of black tar heroin

  • Euphoria: Like other forms of heroin, black tar heroin induces a powerful sense of euphoria, relaxation, and detachment from pain and stress. These immediate effects of heroin can lead to a strong craving for the drug.
  • Analgesia: Black tar heroin acts as a potent painkiller, providing temporary relief from physical discomfort and pain.
  • Drowsiness and sedation: Black tar heroin induces extreme drowsiness and sedation, impairing motor skills and coordination.
  • Respiratory depression: One of the most dangerous short-term effects is respiratory depression. Heroin slows down the central nervous system, leading to shallow breathing, and in some cases, respiratory arrest.
  • Nausea and vomiting: People often experience nausea and vomiting, which can be particularly severe during the initial stages of heroin use.
  • Constricted pupils: Heroin use results in constricted pupils (pinpoint pupils), which can be a telltale sign of opioid intoxication.
  • Skin issues: Many people using black tar heroin report itching and skin problems, such as abscesses and skin infections, due to impurities in the drug.

Long-term effects of black tar heroin

  • Physical health complications: Prolonged use of black tar heroin can lead to severe physical health issues, including respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease, and liver damage. Intravenous use of black tar heroin increases the likelihood of infection at the injection site. Common infections associated with this method of use include staph infections, necrotizing fasciitis, and cellulitis. Beyond this, people who inject black tar heroin are at an elevated risk of damaging their veins, potentially resulting in vein collapse.
  • Tolerance and dependence: As with all opioids, people develop tolerance to the drug over time, requiring higher doses to achieve the desired effect. This often leads to physical and psychological dependence, making it challenging to quit.
  • Withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation: Discontinuing black tar heroin after regular use can result in intensely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Heroin withdrawal symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, anxiety, and intense cravings.
  • Mental health consequences: Chronic heroin use is associated with mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and an increased risk of suicide.
  • Social and economic impact: The use of black tar heroin can have devastating effects on relationships, employment, and overall quality of life. It often leads to financial instability, criminal behavior, and issues with job loss and homelessness.
  • Overdose: Perhaps the most significant risk associated with black tar heroin use is the potential for a fatal overdose. The unpredictable potency of street drugs can easily result in an overdose, triggering respiratory failure and death.

What Does Black Tar Heroin Look Like?

Visually, black tar heroin significantly differs from the more commonly known powdered heroin, which typically appears as either white or brown powder. Black tar heroin, by contrast, has a dark, sticky consistency. It’s easy to tell apart from powdered heroin due to its similarity in appearance to roofing tar.

Black Tar Heroin Withdrawal Symptoms

Black tar heroin withdrawal symptoms can be incredibly disruptive, both physically and psychologically, making it difficult for people to stop using the drug. Understanding these withdrawal symptoms is beneficial for anyone looking to overcome their addiction or provide support to someone in need of assistance detoxing from black tar heroin.

Common black tar heroin withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Withdrawal from black tar heroin often begins with nausea and vomiting, which can be severe and persistent.
  • Gastrointestinal distress is a hallmark of heroin withdrawal, provoking frequent diarrhea and painful abdominal cramps.
  • People often experience intense muscle and bone pain, often described as flu-like symptoms. These aches can be excruciating and make it challenging to stay comfortable.
  • Withdrawal from black tar heroin can cause alternating periods of profuse sweating and chills, contributing to overall discomfort.
  • Psychological symptoms are a significant aspect of heroin withdrawal. Some people may become agitated, anxious, and restless, making it difficult to relax or focus on anything other than their cravings.
  • Difficulty sleeping is a common issue experienced during heroin withdrawal, prompting fatigue and further inflaming other symptoms.
  • Heroin withdrawal often leads to feelings of depression and mood swings, which can be severe and overwhelming.
  • One of the most challenging aspects of withdrawal is the intense cravings for heroin. These cravings can be all-consuming, making it difficult for people to resist the urge to use the drug again.
  • Nasal congestion, runny nose, and frequent sneezing are common physical symptoms during the withdrawal process.
  • While heroin use constricts pupils, withdrawal can lead to pupil dilation, resulting in sensitivity to light.

The black tar heroin withdrawal timeline can vary from person to person. Factors that influence this include the person’s history of drug use, the amount and frequency of heroin consumed, and their overall health.

  • Onset: Withdrawal symptoms typically begin within 6 to 12 hours after the last use of black tar heroin.
  • Peak: The peak of withdrawal symptoms is usually around 2 to 3 days after discontinuation.
  • Duration: Acute withdrawal symptoms may last for about a week, but the psychological and emotional effects can linger for much longer. Some people experience a protracted withdrawal phase known as PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome), which can include mood swings, cravings, and other symptoms for several months.

Overcoming black tar heroin withdrawal is challenging, but it is not impossible. Seeking professional help from addiction specialists or medical facilities is often recommended. Medications like methadone, buprenorphine, or clonidine may be prescribed to manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Additionally, therapy and support groups can provide people with the tools and emotional support needed to successfully navigate the recovery process.


Black Tar Heroin Addiction Treatment

Effective treatment for addiction to black tar heroin normally involves a comprehensive approach that blends medications, talk therapies, and holistic interventions.  A typical treatment plan looks like this:

Supervised medical detoxification

Supervised heroin detox involves medical professionals supervising the withdrawal process to manage symptoms safely and reduce the risk of relapse.

Inpatient or outpatient rehab

Inpatient or outpatient rehab programs provide therapy and structured support to address the underlying causes of addiction and teach coping strategies.

Ongoing MAT

Medications like methadone or buprenorphine may be used to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms. These FDA-approved medications are administered under professional supervision.

Talk therapies and counseling

Individual and group therapy sessions are core components of treatment, helping people understand their addiction and develop healthier behavior patterns.

Holistic interventions

Most of the best rehabs supplement evidence-based treatments with holistic interventions for a whole-body approach to recovery from black tar heroin addiction. Options may include mindfulness, meditation, yoga, fitness classes, or art therapy.

Comprehensive aftercare

Ongoing support can help prevent relapse, with options including support groups, continued counseling, and lifestyle changes to maintain sobriety.


Is black tar heroin more addictive than heroin?

No, black tar heroin is not more addictive than heroin. The addictive potential of heroin is relatively consistent across all forms, including black tar and powdered heroin.

How is black tar heroin made?

Black tar heroin is illicitly produced using a crude refining process that results in its impure and tar-like consistency.

Get Treatment for Black Tar Heroin Addiction at Gratitude Lodge

There are many dangers associated with heroin of all types, especially black tar. Regardless of the severity of your opioid addiction, and even if you have been unwittingly using fentanyl instead of heroin, we can help you recalibrate your life at Gratitude Lodge in Southern California.

Effective heroin addiction treatment begins with supervised detoxification. Our medical detox program ensures that you receive continuous clinical and emotional care as you withdraw from black tar heroin. You can also access medications with FDA approval for the treatment of opioid use disorders like heroin addiction. After addressing the issue of physical dependence on heroin, you will be ready for ongoing inpatient treatment to tackle the psychological aspects of heroin addiction.

All heroin addiction treatment programs at Gratitude Lodge deliver a personalized blend of treatments, such as:

  • Talk therapies like CBT and DBT
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Holistic therapies
  • Family therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Aftercare planning

Although heroin addiction is disruptive, it’s also highly treatable. Call 800-994-2184 for on-the-spot assistance.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox, facilitating the beginnings of a successful recovery at our rehab addiction centers in Orange County, CA.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse. Alcohol detox may not take as long or produce severe withdrawal symptoms, but it is still an essential beginning to your recovery.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse.
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Holistic Therapy

Our holistic therapy treatments offer a full-scope approach to recovery, addressing your mind, body, and emotions as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. This therapy is designed to help address underlying issues and integrate alternative therapies to promote overall health and well-being.
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An essential part of your treatment experience, we offer individual (CBT and DBT talk therapy) and group addiction treatment counseling to help you explore and address the emotional component of addiction, providing you with the tools, self-awareness, and empowerment you need to maintain recovery.
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Dual Diagnosis is a highly effective addiction treatment that addresses substance use and mental health disorders simultaneously. Often co-occurring, these disorders are best managed when treated together with specific and targeted therapy.
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Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-Assisted Treatment provides you with FDA-approved medications to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal while you’re in treatment. This makes the detox process easier and safer, as well as increasing the chances of a successful recovery.
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Sober living provides a supportive and substance-free living environment for your ongoing recovery. We partner with a number of upscale and carefully vetted sober living homes that are available to our clients after inpatient alcohol and drug addiction treatment.
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Once detox and inpatient are complete, we provide an easy transition to outpatient care through our hand-selected partners. This program offers a more flexible approach, allowing you to ease back in to daily life while still receiving frequent & effective care.
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Inpatient treatment provides an intensive and comprehensive addiction treatment program in a structured environment. You will receive 24/7 expert care, therapy, and support as you build your foundation for long-term recovery.
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A crucial first step in the recovery process, our detox program provides a comfortable, medically supervised environment that addresses the physical aspect of addiction and eliminates substances from your body.

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