Learn About the Various Types of Heroin

Highly Addictive Heroin Is Making a Comeback in the U.S.

After years of declining use in the United States, heroin began to make a comeback, as evidenced by the amount of drug being confiscated in drug raids around the country and the number of people showing up in emergency rooms for treatment of overdoses.

Between 2007 and 2011, the number of past-month heroin users nearly doubled, according to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration research. The number of people addicted to heroin more than doubled and first-time users increased dramatically.

During the same time period, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reported an increase in the number of overdose deaths related to heroin use and suddenly heroin was becoming a growing threat to public safety.

DEA officials believe the increase in heroin overdose deaths arise from three main reasons:

  • Today's heroin is cheaper and more potent
  • Heroin users today are younger than in the past
  • Painkiller abusers are switching to heroin

If you happen to encounter the highly addictive drug, be careful. Call your physician or a law-enforcement official to handle the drug and to find support for people addicted to it.

Black Tar Heroin

Black Tar Heroin
Black Tar Heroin. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

"Black tar" heroin is dark brown or black and has a tar-like sticky feel to it. It is usually injected into the veins. Black tar heroin is usually produced in Mexico and generally contains a very low percentage of pure heroin. It is, however, faster to produce and therefore cheaper than other forms of heroin.

Black tar heroin is a dark, sticky substance due to the way it is processed and not a "powder" form of the drug. The color can vary depending upon what agents were added to it during processing to "cut" the purity of the finished product.

Asian Heroin

Asian Heroin
Brown and White Asian Heroin. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

Southeast Asian heroin is usually white, powdered, and highly water soluble. Southwest Asian heroin is typically a brown coarse powder with poor water solubility.

However, the color of heroin changes depending on what materials it is cut with before it is sold on the streets.

There is no cookie-cutter heroin user. Individuals of all ages and lifestyles have used heroin. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, approximately 1.2 percent of the population reported heroin use at least once in their lifetime.

Brown Heroin

Closeup Picture of Heroin. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

Heroin in its purest form is usually a white powder. Less pure forms have varied colors ranging from white to brown.

Brown heroin is produced in the first stage of purification of the drug. It is, therefore, easier to produce and cheaper than white heroin. White heroin (diamorphine hydrochloride) is the purest form of the drug on the market.

Brown heroin is easier to smoke, while white heroin is usually injected because it requires a much higher temperature to burn and smoke. Most of the heroin produced in Columbia is brown heroin, while Asian heroin is usually white.

White Heroin

Powdered Heroin
Powdered Heroin. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

Heroin is a highly addictive drug that is processed from morphine, which comes from the seedpod of the opium Asian poppy plant. Heroin can be injected into a user's veins, smoked or snorted.

White heroin is the purest form of the drug available in the U.S., but it can be difficult to identify because it does not always appear to be white. White heroin can actually appear pink, brown, beige, or otherwise off-white because of the different chemicals that may have been used to process it.

A Word From Verywell

The use of heroin is illegal—and highly addictive. If you or someone you love struggles with a heroin addiction, call the Alcohol & Drug Addiction Resource Center at (800) 390-4056.