What Does Heroin Look Like?

The purest form of heroin is a white powder. However, heroin can also take on a dark brown powder appearance as well as a sticky texture.

Heroin, a highly addictive drug extracted from the opium poppy plant, is derived from morphine. The substance comes in a variety of colors and textures.

The purest form of heroin is a white powder. However, hesroin can also take on a dark brown powder appearance as well as a sticky texture. The various coloring can come from additives.

Although likely used in powder form, those who participate in heroin use may use the sticky substance known as black tar heroin or roofing tar. This type of heroin has a black appearance.

What Is Heroin?

Heroin is considered an opioid. It comes from the opiate poppy plant which is grown in Mexico and other dry climates. There is generally a low percentage of pure heroin in black tar heroin, which is commonly found in Mexican regions.

The various forms of heroin are made from morphine that comes from the seedpods of poppy plants. Once the substance is extracted from the plant, it can be used to create the addicting opioid heroin.

Heroin Abuse

Heroin can be administered in a variety of ways, including intravenous injection, snorting, and smoking. Those who smoke heroin may use aluminum foil.

The heroin is placed on top of the foil and then heated from below with a lighter. Once the foil begins to melt, the heroin is inhaled using a straw.

When used intravenously, a person may use a syringe to inject the drug into their vein. To snort heroin, a person will use the powder and simply snort the substance to gain their desired high.

Those on prescription opioid painkillers may turn to smoking, injecting, or snorting heroin as a way to maintain or increase the strength of their high.

Heroin Street Names

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), street names for heroin include:

  • black tar
  • ​big h
  • horse
  • smack
  • thunder
  • hell dust
  • ​chiva
  • negra

Side Effects Of Heroin Abuse

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute on Drug Abuse states that heroin can cause a variety of short-term effects on the body. Some of these include:

  • drowsiness
  • severe itching
  • dry mouth
  • flushing of the skin
  • vomiting
  • heaviness in the arms and legs
  • nausea

Long-term effects of heroin use may include:

  • muscle and bone pain
  • abscesses on the skin
  • insomnia
  • liver disease
  • pneumonia
  • sexual dysfunction
  • damaged tissue
  • constipation

Those who participate in this form of substance use may share needles and engage in risky behavior. This can lead to serious infections such as hepatitis C, hepatitis B, or HIV.

Other Health Problems

Those who take heroin may develop serious medical issues including:

  • heart infections
  • coma
  • ​shallow breathing
  • damaged blood vessels
  • mental disorders such as anxiety or depression


Heroin overdoses can occur because the substance isn’t always pure and can be combined with other drugs without the person knowing. Blue lips and fingernails, convulsions, and clammy skin are all signs of a possible heroin overdose.

Heroin Addiction Treatment

Severe withdrawal symptoms are a major concern for those addicted to heroin. Thankfully, there are medications such as buprenorphine and methadone to help with curbing the addiction.

Known as medication-assisted treatment (MAT), these programs offer medication along with behavioral therapy and counseling.

Other treatment services include medical detox, support groups, and holistic care activities within an inpatient or outpatient program.

If you or a loved one suffer from substance abuse, contact our helpline today to learn about our addiction treatment options.

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

©2024 Northeast Addition Center | All Rights Reserved

This page does not provide medical advice.

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