Black Tar Heroin
It seems as if there is always something new in the world of drugs and other illegal substances. Black tar heroin is not exactly new, but its use is on the rise. The quick but short-lived high that users get from black tar heroin is tempting for many addicts and makes for an extremely addictive and dangerous drug that is readily found across the U.S. Sometimes called Mexican black tar, muck, or just ‘brown’, this alternative form of purer heroin is even more dangerous than the original. The rise in consumption of black tar heroin has law enforcement, policy makers, and addiction professionals and caregivers very concerned.
Pure and Black Tar Heroin
The two are essentially the same drug. Heroin, in any form, is an illegal drug that comes from a plant called the opium poppy. This plant grows throughout the world, but is native to the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia. For thousands of years, people have used the gummy substance from the fruit of the poppy, called opium, for a variety of medicinal reasons. Modern medicine caught on to the benefits of opium in the late 1800s and early 1900s when several compounds were isolated from it. These included morphine, codeine, and thebaine, which were discovered to have pain relieving properties as well as the ability to heal stomach problems. Many modern prescriptions opiates are derived from these substances, as is the illegal drug, heroin.
Heroin is closely related to morphine and for a short period of time was used in medicine. It fell out of use quickly as doctors realized how dangerous it was and how easily patients could become addicted to heroin. Others also noticed the high that it gave the user and heroin is now one of the deadliest drugs on the illegal marketplace.
Using heroin typically involves injecting it into a vein using a needle. This means that users are susceptible to a host of infectious diseases as sharing of needles is common. Heroin use can also lead to heart infections, pneumonia, liver or kidney failure, abscesses, birth defects, and collapsed and hardened veins.
Synthesizing and processing heroin is a lengthy and cost-intensive endeavor. At the end of it, the result is pure heroin, also called white powder heroin. In an attempt to create a similar product that requires a lesser input of time and money, drug cartels, largely in Mexico, came up with black tar heroin. It is simply a form of heroin that is less processed and is not as pure as the white powder. Because it is dark brown to black in color, thick, and sticky, the name black tar seemed fitting. The impurities and the overall texture and color of black tar heroin vary depending on each individual batch.
As if the devastating health effects of pure heroin were not bad enough, those from black tar heroin are even worse. The possible issues are similar to those from white powder, but are more severe and more likely to occur when someone uses black tar. Overdose and death are possible with just one use of either form of the drug.
Venous sclerosis, the hardened blood vessels that accompany regular use of heroin, is a bigger problem with black tar. Any type of heroin use leads to hardening of blood vessels, but because the black tar is so gummy and sticky, it causes sclerosis after fewer injections. When users find their veins unusable, they begin to inject the heroin subcutaneously. This type of injection can lead to the death of tissues and possibly the need for amputation.
The Rise of Black Tar
The main reason that black tar heroin has been on the rise in the U.S. is that it is cheaper. Drug addicts, especially heroin users, are often in a constant scramble to find money to get more drugs. When a cheaper form of their drug is available, the choice is easy and more people begin purchasing this deadly type of heroin.
The main culprits in the entry of black tar into the U.S. are the Mexican drug cartels. They have found a drug that is in demand and can be made cheaply and have found ways to get it across the border. Most disturbing, perhaps, in this particular part of the war on drugs is that the cartels have infiltrated even small towns and communities in the U.S. They have dealers and outposts throughout the country which are causing real problems for local law enforcement agencies.