Black Tar Heroin (BTH) | Identification, Effects, & Dangers

Kimberly Langdon, M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Kimberly Langdon, M.D.

on December 10, 2022

Unlike white powder or brown powder heroin, black tar heroin can take on a dark appearance and a solid, sticky feel. Using black tar heroin can cause health effects such as overdose, addiction, and bacterial infections.

Black tar heroin is a potent form of heroin, and an illegal opiate, that looks dark and feels sticky to the touch. Black tar heroin can be smoked, injected, or inhaled, similar to powdered heroin.

A significant percentage of black tar heroin in the Western and Eastern United States have Mexican and South American origins, respectively. Heroin in Ohio can be a mix of both powdered heroin and black tar heroin.

Heroin is a Schedule I controlled substance in the United States, with no approved medical uses. Any form of powdered or black tar heroin use can be considered a form of substance abuse. 

Harm reduction and addiction treatment services in Ohio can help patients practice safer drug use, lower high-risk drug use patterns, and learn alternatives to substance abuse.

Identifying Black Tar Heroin

Black tar heroin can assume a variety of colors, including black, brown, and tan. It can either be sticky or brittle, depending on the surrounding temperature.

The smell of black tar heroin can also distinguish it from other types of heroin. Participants in various studies have described the odor of black tar heroin as acidic, sugary, and similar to a burning smell.

The discrepancies between different samples of black tar heroin may be due to various illicit drug markets competing for American presence.

Effects Of Black Tar Heroin

Black tar heroin can have effects similar to the common effects of heroin when ingested, such as:

  • sedation
  • impairment
  • euphoria
  • dry mouth
  • constipation

These effects may be stronger if black tar heroin is taken in higher doses.

Dangers Of Black Tar Heroin

The combination of black tar heroin’s potent nature and unregulated status can make a single dose of black tar heroin life-threatening.

Heroin Overdose

Heroin overdose can occur after ingesting large amounts of heroin at once, or if the drug was adulterated with dangerous opioids like fentanyl

A heroin overdose may cause side effects such as:

  • slowed or stopped breathing
  • a weak or stopped pulse
  • blue lips
  • clammy skin
  • a gurgling noise (also known as a “death gurgle”)
  • unconsciousness

If you see these signs in a loved one, call for help immediately. The breathing of overdose victims can be restored with naloxone while professional help arrives.

Substance Use Disorder

Heroin can be habit-forming, due to the link the drug has with the release of pleasure. Taking heroin can also reinforce drug-using behaviors due to the drug’s effect on your brain chemistry.

A substance use disorder can be defined as a form of drug use that negatively impacts your life. Addiction, physical dependence, and withdrawal symptoms may be aspects of substance use disorder.

The all-encompassing nature of substance use disorder can make quitting difficult, even if drug use patterns are a detriment to your health.

Health Risks Related To The Method Of Use

Snorting black tar heroin through the nose can cause sinus infections, a reduced sense of smell, nosebleeds, and cardiovascular issues.

People who inject black tar heroin with unclean needles may have a high risk of wound botulism, blood-borne pathogens, necrotizing fasciitis, abscesses at the injection site, and other life-threatening health issues. 

Injecting heroin with clean needles can also cause collapsed veins, blood clots, and track marks.

Ohio harm reduction programs can prevent the spread of bacterial infections during injection drug use. These programs may offer clean needles, intervention services, and access to addiction treatment programs.

Heroin Addiction Treatment

Black tar heroin can have similar side effects and dangers as powdered heroin. In Ohio, black tar heroin and powdered heroin may be present in high amounts.

If you or a loved one are struggling with heroin use, you may benefit from professional treatment. A heroin addiction treatment program can give you the resources and environment you need to focus on recovery.

Contact Ohio Recovery Center for a treatment facility that focuses on your specific needs. Our detox, behavioral health, mental health, and aftercare planning services can improve your outlook concerning black tar heroin use.

  1. Drug Enforcement Administration — Drug Fact Sheet: Heroin
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse — Heroin DrugFacts
  3. NYC Health — Heroin

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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