Heroin: Black and White

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Question: My boyfriend wanted me to try heroin, but I said no. It didn’t look like heroin as seen on TV. It was actually black and gummy like road tar. Are there different types of heroin and are they all addictive?

Answer: There are significant increases in heroin use in the 18 to 25 age group and we are now seeing use among school-age youth. The glamorization of heroin in music and films, changing patterns of drug use, and heroin’s increased purity and decreased prices all lead to experimentation, followed by addiction.

Heroin is processed from morphine which is extracted from the seed pods of poppy plants. It’s most familiar in a white powder form which is a more pure form of heroin flowing into the USA from South America and Southeast Asia.

What you have described may be “Black Tar” heroin, which is produced in Mexico and sold mainly in the Western USA. It is usually sticky or hard like coal. The dark color comes from the way it is processed which leaves behind impurities. It is usually dissolved, diluted then injected by the user.

White heroin, because of its purity, can be snorted or smoked with similar intensity to being injected and appeals to new users who want to avoid needles. Users who inject heroin feel its effects within 7 to 8 seconds, compared to 10 to 15 minutes when it is smoked. Tolerances build quickly requiring more heroin to achieve the same effect. No matter what form or how it is used, heroin is highly addictive for the user.

Heroin is often cut with other substances – including poisons like strychnine – so users never know how pure the heroin is and risk overdose and death, on every use. When used repeatedly, it can cause actual changes in the physical structure and physiology of the brain which can create long-term imbalances in the neuronal and hormonal systems which are difficult, sometimes impossible, to reverse.

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