Black tar heroin is mainly produced in Mexico and it is the prevalent form of heroin in the western United States. In the eastern United States, South American-produced “white” (actually beige to off-white) powder heroin is most common.
Black tar heroin may be sticky like roofing tar or hard like coal. The color may vary from dark brown to black.
The color and consistency of black tar heroin result from the crude processing methods used to illicitly manufacture heroin in Mexico.
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Black tar heroin is often sold on the street in its tar-like state at purity ranging from 20 to 80 percent.
Commonly, black tar heroin is sold in small foil or cellophane packets or in small toy balloons.
Black tar heroin is most frequently dissolved, diluted, and then injected. It is also been smoked.
Black tar heroin addicts place a small amount of black tar heroin in a spoon. The spoon they use is bent so that it sits level without spilling when placed on a table. Then they add a small amount of water and it is heated over a flame. Once the black tar heroin has melted, it is drawn up into a syringe and injected. This method of administration poses special problems because of the transmission of HIV and other diseases that can occur from sharing needles or other injection equipment.
Paraphernalia for injecting black tar heroin includes hypodermic needles, small cotton balls (used to strain the drug), water, and spoons or bottle caps used for “cooking” or liquefying the heroin. The high from black tar usually lasts from four to six hours.
Southern California, primarily Los Angeles, is a major transportation and distribution hub for Mexican black tar heroin and brown powdered heroin. Black tar heroin is also occasionally found in western Canada, though Southeast Asian heroin is the most predominant form there.
Almost all of the heroin produced in Mexico is destined for the western United States.
Mexico-based heroin continues to dominate the market in the western half of the United States. Evidence suggests that trafficking organizations from Mexico are attempting to produce higher purity heroin. Mexican heroin distribution networks in the United States are managed almost entirely by criminal organizations operating from Mexico and by Mexican-American criminal gangs that are in charge of the street-level distribution of heroin.
“Black tar heroin” is the typical street term for the drug. It has many other street (colloquial) names, such as Pigment, Black, Negro and Chiva.