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The Different Types of Heroin

heroin syringe

The number of people in the United States who have reportedly used heroin at least once in a year has been on the rise since 2007, with this number hitting 948,000 in 2016.1

A large contributor to the opioid epidemic, heroin is a type of opioid that has been used for many years to treat pain, but it is also highly addictive and often abused. It is a natural drug derived from the opium poppy plant that is usually grown in Mexico, South America, and parts of Southeast Asia. The seed pod from this plant is what gives users the euphoric high and also what makes heroin so addictive. Heroin may also be cut or laced with other drugs or substances depending on where it is made and who produces it. Because heroin is illegal in the United States and not regulated by any formal entity, there are a few different forms of heroin; even batches from the same seller can also vary drastically.

The Various Types of Heroin

Heroin’s molecular formula is C21H23NO5, but like with many illicit and synthetic drugs, there are different types of heroin depending on the ingredients and the production.2 These forms of heroin may look unique, but they often contain a lot of the same ingredients and have similar effects. The types of heroin include brown powder heroin, white powder heroin, black tar heroin, and other heroin drug mixtures. Regardless of the type of heroin someone is abusing, this drug is dangerous, especially with prolonged abuse, and can lead to serious consequences including overdose. Heroin addiction treatment can help users quit before it is too late.

Brown Powder Heroin

Brown powder heroin is the result of the first stage of purification and may also be cut with lactose. It has an appearance similar to sand but can vary in the shade of brown depending on the additives. Brown powder heroin is typically produced in Mexico before being distributed to the United States. Because it is not as refined as some of other types of heroin like white powder heroin, it is often cheaper. Most heroin users will choose to smoke this form of heroin because it does not dissolve easily. Because it is not typically injected, brown powder heroin may be more appealing to novice heroin users.

White Powder Heroin

White powder heroin known as diacetylmorphine hydrochloride is the purest form of heroin, but it may be cut with other substances to increase profit. Sometimes the color may be a little off-white, beige, or even pink depending on the exact ingredients and the processing methods. Typically, the whiter the heroin, the purer it is, but it can still be cut by white powder fillers. White powder heroin is usually produced in Mexico or South America. Because it dissolves quickly, people will inject this type of heroin, but the additives can sometimes cause problems.

Black Tar Heroin

Black tar heroin can look drastically different from brown or white powder heroin. True to its name, black tar heroin typically comes in black chunks and may feel sticky to the touch. It is produced in Mexico and often distributed more to the western United States. Of all the different forms of heroin, black tar heroin is usually much less refined and a lower purity. It also has a different and cheaper production process than other types of heroin, making it less expensive. Injecting black tar heroin can lead to many complications.

Other Heroin Mixtures

Often, heroin can be laced with other illicit drugs to create more drastic effects. Sometimes these combinations may even include toxic chemicals or poisons. These substances can be extremely dangerous as they can not only lead to some unsafe chemical combinations, but also the amounts are not regulated. Someone who buys these drugs off the street can never be sure of what they are getting and it could lead to fatal consequences. Because of this, it is important that people get help such as an inpatient or outpatient program sooner rather than later.

Some examples of drugs that can be laced with heroin include:

  • Fentanyl
  • Weed
  • Cocaine (Speedball)
  • Prescription opioids
  • Ecstasy

Purple heroin is a relatively rare drug mixture of heroin, OxyContin, and carfentanil or fentanyl. Because of the addiction on these synthetic opioids, this type of heroin is extremely potent and dangerous. It also has a high propensity for overdose. Speedball is a mixture of heroin and cocaine. Typically, users will inject both of these drugs into their system at the same time, which can lead to dangerous effects.

Heroin Fillers

Along with the various drugs that heroin can be laced with, many drug deals will also mix the different types of heroin with certain fillers to cut costs for production and increase their profit.

Some common fillers for heroin may include:

  • Flour
  • Talc
  • Cornstarch
  • Sugar
  • Powdered milk
  • Crushed painkillers

While these fillers are harmless by themselves, they can lead to other complications when mixed with heroin. Especially when users try to inject heroin, these additives could clog the veins and lead to various vascular problems, including, eventually, heart problems.

If you or a loved one is abusing heroin and cannot seem to stop on your own, we want to help. Our drug rehab in Langhorne works with people who struggle with this drug on getting their lives back under control regardless of the type of heroin they have become addicted to.

Stop letting drugs or alcohol dictate your life; call us today at 888-280-4763 to take your first step to sobriety. At Banyan Philadelphia, we are here to help.

Sources & References:

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse - What is the scope of heroin use in the United States?
  2. NIH - PubChem-Heroin

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
The Different Types of Heroin
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