Heroin is a highly addictive drug that is extracted from the poppy plant. It is a processed form of morphine and the scientific name is diacetylmorphine. This rapidly acting opioid produces a feeling of rush in the user, followed by a state bordering between sleepiness and wakefulness. Because it enters the brain so rapidly and produces a surge of euphoria, heroin is sold in large quantities as a party drug. Its use has been spreading rapidly and the situation has gotten so bad that the drug has been listed as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. This means illegal possession can result in jail time. The drug is available in a number of forms. The two main types are the white heroin and brown heroin.
What kind of drug is heroin? How can you recognize brown sugar on the street? Heroin is typically available as a whitish or brownish powder or a black sticky substance called black tar. On the street, the drug is usually cut with other substances resembling a white powder appearance, such as starch, sugar, and powdered milk. An overdose of heroin can result in shallow breathing, clammy skin, convulsions, coma, and even death.
How Was Heroin Created?
Morphine is extracted from the pods of Asian poppy plants. Heroin was first synthesized in the laboratory by British chemist C. R. Adler in 1874 who did not know that his discovery would become a dangerous worldwide problem. Adler made the substance with the sole aim of developing a more effective painkiller that was not as addictive as morphine. It was discovered, however, that the new discovery was, in fact, twice as strong as morphine. The project, therefore, produced a worse version of morphine. Heroin is the fastest acting opiate known to man and is even more addictive than morphine. More than one century later, the drug is responsible for destroying thousands of lives and more and more people around the world are becoming addicted to it in search of a temporary high.
What Color is Heroin?
What do heroin the drug pictures look like? This drug is manufactured and distributed in different forms which vary in concentration and purity. Therefore, there is no simple answer to the question. There is the brown form of the substance which is known for its processing and is easy to smoke. The white form of the substance is the most refined version of the drug.
Users prefer this drug because it can be snorted or smoked, doing away with the need for syringes and needles. As a result, the risks associated with sharing needles, such as contracting deadly infections like hepatitis and HIV, are eliminated. However, it is a misconception that snorting or smoking a drug (as opposed to injecting it) reduces the risk of becoming addicted to it.
What does a gram look like? It is very common to “cut” heroin or mix it with other impurities to reduce its potency and maximize profits by selling it. Substances used to cut the drug are usually relatively harmless powders such as chalk, flour, sucrose, talcum powder, starch, etc. These impurities affect the appearance of the drug and can change its color to white, brown, rose-gray, or black.
Street Names for Heroin
Drug abusers do not usually talk openly about their dependence. For this reason, it is common for addicts to use code words to mask their addiction, hide the truth from family and friends, and avoid legal repercussions. Over the years, a number of street names have come into use with the increasing popularity of this illicit substance. Some of the well-known street names of heroin include:
Types of Heroin: How to Identify Black Tar?
One of the forms of heroin is black tar which is of Mexican origin. This type is the fastest and cheapest to produce, even though it contains a relatively low concentration of the actual drug.
Black tar derives its name because of its resemblance to the tar used for roofing. This is a black and sticky substance and the only type of heroin that is not in powder form. On the street, black tar is often wrapped in transparent cellophane and placed in balloons for sale.
Users of Black Tar
Black tar is usually bought and used by experienced heroin addicts because of its method of administration. White or brown heroin can be smoked, snorted, or injected, but black tar users usually inject it. This is because black tar is not pure enough to get much of a high from smoking or snorting it. Therefore, for it to be effective, it must be dissolved and injected with a syringe into a vein under the skin or directly into a muscle. Black tar is unlikely to be an addict’s first choice. Long-term addicts use it because it is cheap and helps stave off the withdrawal effects of the drug.
How Does Black Tar End Up in America?
The majority of black tar crosses over into the United States across the Mexican border. In fact, America has a long history of drugs being smuggled from Mexico. Initially, the majority of brown sugar entered the United States via this route. In more recent times, there has been an influx of pure white powder from Afghanistan and the popularity of brown heroin has diminished. The Mexican drug cartels have also changed tactics and switched to producing and smuggling the black tar type of drug, which is substantially less pure than the white or brown type, usually averaging 25-30 percent in purity at best.
What makes black tar so appealing? It is the price which is considerably lower than white heroin. The black tar type is mainly distributed along the West Coast with Los Angeles being a hotspot for dealers and users. Law enforcement officers have found that they see a divide where black tar dominates the country west of the Mississippi and white powder heroin is more popular in the east. This is in line with the source of both forms of the substance.
Who Abuses Brown Sugar and Black Tar?
As mentioned, heroin is an opioid which works on receptors in the human brain and produces effects similar to morphine. Many prescription pain relievers and anesthetics are very similar in chemical structure.
In 1995, a new opioid painkiller, OxyContin, received approval for use in America. There was a subsequent surge in doctors prescribing this drug. Its addictive properties were greatly downplayed and patients were given prescriptions of OxyContin to treat postsurgical pain and pain from injuries. Even teenagers experiencing pain from wisdom tooth removal were prescribed this highly addictive painkiller. It is critical to remember that all opioid painkillers are meant for short-term use for severe pain. Unfortunately, due to its highly addictive nature, even people using OxyContin for valid reasons by prescription can easily become dependent on it. This means the body begins to require the drug to function normally. If the drug is not available, the individual experiences withdrawal symptoms. With prolonged and frequent use, the body tends to build a tolerance to its effects, meaning more and more medication is needed to get the same result.
People who are addicted to OxyContin often turn to buying the medication on the street once their prescription runs out. Doing so can be incredibly expensive. One tablet of OxyContin costs approximately $40 to $80 on the street. This high cost drives addicts to turn towards cheaper alternatives, such as heroin. This drug has similar effects as the opioid medication they are addicted to, even down to the kind of high it produces. The statistics are frightening and show just how dangerous this path can be. About 80 percent of current heroin addicts admit that they abused prescription opioid medications before they turned to heroin. Other factors that predispose a person to develop a heroin addiction are a personal history of drug or alcohol abuse or a family history of substance abuse.
Risks of Using Black Tar
All types of heroin affect the human brain by producing a feeling of euphoria. This occurs because the drug is converted to morphine in the brain which becomes flooded with dopamine. The high is the main reason people choose to keep using the drug and why it has become so popular. Other symptoms occur during the high, including:
- Cottonmouth (dry mouth)
- Unclear, foggy thinking
- Rosy skin
- A sensation of being weighted down in the limbs
- Soft tissue infections surrounding the wound at the site of injection
- Wound botulism due to the bacteria Clostridium botulinum entering the wound and leading to paralysis
- Gas gangrene due to another type of bacteria coming into contact with the wound and causing the surrounding flesh to die
- Tetanus, which is a risk from any injected drug
- Necrotizing fasciitis, a type of flesh-eating disease caused by bacteria coming in contact with the injection site
Overdose is a huge risk for users of black tar. It is almost impossible to predict how much of the purchased product is the pure form of the drug. Therefore, it is incredibly difficult to estimate accurate dosing. An additional risk is when heroin is cut with a substance such as Fentanyl which increases its potency.
Packaging of Powder Heroin
- Aluminum squares are used to package white powder heroin
- Latex balloons are used to package black tar
- Capsules are used to package the powder form
- Ziploc bags are used to package heroin in larger quantities for wholesale
- Aluminum foil and lighters to burn the drug and produce fumes which are inhaled either directly or through a tube
- Syringes to inject the drug solution into a vein (this is the most unsafe method of heroin abuse and is associated with a number of complications due to shared needles and multiple puncture points in the skin of the addict)
- Heroin spoons to heat it and use it for intravenous injection
- Cotton balls or cigarette filters to filter the drug before injecting it
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