Heroin is a highly addictive illicit opiate drug commonly found in three basic forms: white powder, brown powder, and black tar. Each type of heroin consists of slightly different ingredients, and all are likely to be laced with other substances. These can increase the drug’s potency and, in some instances, make it even riskier to use.
Some of these additives or fillers are other opiates and share some of the psychoactive effects of heroin. Others are simply powders that are similar in appearance to the heroin in which they are cut. And in some cases, the fillers are toxins that can produce severe or even lethal side effects.
Diacetylmorphine (diamorphine) is a potent painkiller synthesized from the sap of the seed pod of the opium poppy. It is the primary psychoactive ingredient in heroin, which induces euphoria and feelings of relaxation. For this reason, it also gives heroin addictive properties and can rapidly produce chemical dependence among its users.
White powder heroin is the purest form of heroin, but it may be laced with other drugs and fillers to increase profit for dealers. Sometimes the color may be off-white, beige, or even pink, depending on the precise ingredients and the processing methods. In general, the whiter the heroin, the purer it is. Because it is water-soluble, many individuals inject it, although it can also be smoked or snorted.
Brown Powder Heroin
Brown powder heroin results from the first stage of purification and can also be cut with lactose. It has a similar appearance to sand but can vary in brown depending on the additives. Because it is not as refined as whiter heroin, it is often less expensive. Many users choose to smoke this form because it does not dissolve as easily as its purer counterpart. For this reason, it is not as commonly injected, smoking may be a more attractive option to naïve heroin users.
Black Tar Heroin
Black tar heroin is a freebase form of the drug that is sticky or tacky like tar or hard like coal. Its dark color is the end result of crude processing techniques that leave behind impurities. In reality, black tar heroin can also be dark orange or dark brown in appearance. It’s the least expensive form of heroin because it is the least pure.
A World on Fentanyl
Fatalities related to opioid overdoses have sharply risen in the last decade, mainly due to the contamination of heroin and other drugs with the illicitly manufactured opioid fentanyl, which is many times more potent and dangerous than heroin itself.
Fentanyl is even less expensive to produce than heroin, and a tiny amount will go a long way. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t take much fentanyl to overdose either, which is why so many heroin users have died by ingesting fentanyl-laced heroin without knowing what was in their drug.
Sometimes heroin is made in clandestine home labs by people attempting to convert prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone, into a street drug that can be passed off as heroin. Very often, there is almost no way to know the point of origin or extra ingredients in heroin purchased illicitly either online or on the street. It may also contain contaminants that are byproducts of the production process, such as ammonia, acetic anhydride, chloroform, calcium oxide, and hydrochloric acid.
Fillers are frequently added to bulk up heroin so that dealers can boost their profit margins. Some of these are relatively benign substances, such as talc, flour, cornstarch, powdered milk, and sugar.
Other fillers are dangerous. For example, black tar heroin can be adulterated with black shoe polish or dirt. In addition, quinine is sometimes combined with white powder heroin for its bitter flavor.
It’s also possible for poisons to be cut into heroin. For example, strychnine, which is a pesticide commonly used in rat poison, is one toxic ingredient sometimes laced into heroin.
Black tar heroin may be cut with soil that contains the spores of a toxic contaminant called clostridium botulinum. This bacteria causes a relatively rare but potentially lethal food poisoning known as botulism if spores enter a wound.
Street heroin can contain local anesthetics, such as xylocaine. Although anesthetics are legally used for dental and medical reasons, they come with risks, have side effects, and are potential allergens.
Getting Treatment for Heroin Addiction
The abuse of heroin, other drugs, or alcohol can cause lifelong and devastating problems. Many people who are dependent on intoxicating substances find it extremely challenging to quit on their own. However, help is available, and no one deserves to go through the detox and recovery journey alone.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery offer state-of-the-art, comprehensive addiction treatment programs that include partial hospitalization and inpatient formats. Our multifaceted approach includes psychotherapies, counseling, psychoeducation, experiential activities, mindfulness therapy, aftercare planning, and more.