Black Tar Heroin, Brown Powder Heroin, White Powder Heroin, Cutting Agents, Dangers, Signs of Abuse & Addiction Treatment
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Can Heroin Be Powder?
A highly addictive and illegal drug, heroin is sold in three different forms: black tar heroin, brown powder heroin, and white powder heroin. Each kind of heroin contains slightly different ingredients, and all are likely to have various other substances added. These can add to the drug’s potency, in some cases making it even more dangerous.
Heroin is usually a mixture of diacetylmorphine, the active ingredient that produces the drug effects, and a variety of filler ingredients. Some of these fillers are other opiates and share some of the psychoactive effects of heroin. Others are simply powders that share the appearance of the form of heroin they are cut with. And in some cases, the add-ins are toxins that can cause deadly side effects.
Diacetylmorphine, or diamorphine, is a highly potent painkiller that is synthesized from the latex sap of the seed pod of the opium poppy, known as opium. The opium poppy grows in many parts of the world, including Asia, Australia, some parts of Europe, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Mexico.
This opiate is the main psychoactive ingredient in heroin, which produces the euphoric heroin high. It is also what gives heroin its addictive qualities and creates a state of physical dependence among its users; the more someone uses, the more they need to avoid heroin withdrawal symptoms.
Research shows that drug users are concerned about fentanyl in their heroin, and most are open to using rapid test strips, which can be used to detect the presence of fentanyl in drug samples (before use) or urine (after use) and can help inform people about their exposure risk.
In addition to diacetylmorphine and fentanyl, street heroin may contain a variety of other street and prescription drugs, including methamphetamine. Although meth is a stimulant and heroin a relaxant, both produce feelings of euphoria. A drug dealer can often get away with mixing any euphoria-producing psychoactive drug with heroin if it is available at a cheaper price. Meth carries its risks and typically contains toxic chemicals. That makes it particularly unsafe to inject directly into the bloodstream.
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Heroin In Powder Form
Street heroin is almost never pure. It may be a white powder or dark brown. The consistency can vary widely as there may be many impurities depending on the manufacturing process. Sugars, starches, powdered milk, and even other types of drugs may be added as filler. The unpredictable strength of the drug further complicates matters on top of the person’s addiction to it.
Many heroin overdoses are accidental. Some people switch from a prescription opioid-based medication to a drug, for various reasons. The problem is these medications are supplied in known dosages and compositions, and heroin isn’t. Even if heroin may be easier to obtain, the purity can vary regardless of the source. There’s little or no regulation of dosage, so people often don’t know how much drug they are taking.
Impurities may be introduced to increase potency or cut production costs. In 2009, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported Afghanistan had identified several chemicals used for cutting heroin. Substances included caffeine and other compounds, such as phenolphthalein, chloroquine, and paracetamol. Caffeine makes heroin vaporize when exposed to lower temperatures, while chloroquine, a drug used to fight malaria, is widely available and low in price, but does not change the properties or use of the drug. Some believe the additive may be sold as fake heroin in Southwest Asia.
Cutting agents used include:
- Phenolphthalein: This substance has been used as a laxative, acid, or base indicator, and is a known carcinogenic, but its reasons for cutting heroin are not fully known.
- Paracetamol: An over-the-counter painkiller, it has a bitter taste and a mild analgesic effect. It might be used to disguise poor-quality heroin and is commonly used in many countries.
- Fentanyl: This narcotic pain medication is used as a cutting agent or sold as heroin. It is as much as 100 times more potent than morphine, which is why the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee approved bill H.R. 3713 in 2016 to increase the penalty of trafficking heroin cut with this drug by up to five years. This drug has been the reason for many drug-related deaths in the US.
- Tylenol PM: Cutting black tar heroin with these tablets is more practical because of the cooking process used for creating what’s known as cheese heroin. Other medications with diphenhydramine and acetaminophen may be used as well.
Flour, chalk, talcum powder, starch, and more dangerous agents, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, alprazolam, ecstasy, and crack cocaine, may also be used. The purity of street heroin, therefore, can vary greatly, anywhere from 3-99 percent, based on statistics from Johns Hopkins University. One can easily see why the risk of overdose is so high.
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What Does Powder Heroin Look Like?
White Powder Heroin
White heroin (diamorphine hydrochloride) is the purest form of the drug, but it’s usually cut with other substances, significantly reducing its purity. White powder heroin can be difficult to identify because it can actually appear pink, brown, beige, or off-white because of the different chemicals that may have been used to process it. It’s usually injected or snorted because it requires a much higher temperature to burn and smoke.
Brown Powder Heroin
Brown heroin isn’t as pure or potent as white heroin because it’s not as refined. It’s produced in the first stage of purification of the drug. It is, therefore, easier to produce and cheaper than white heroin. Brown heroin is usually smoked because it doesn’t dissolve well.
Black Powder Heroin
Black tar heroin is dark brown or black and has a tar-like, sticky feel due to the crude way it’s processed, which is different than the 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. It can be melted down and injected into the veins or smoked. Black tar heroin is usually produced in Mexico and generally contains a very low percentage of pure heroin. It is, however, faster and easier to produce and therefore cheaper than other forms of heroin.
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What Does Heroin Powder Smell Like
Heroin generally smells like vinegar because this smell is a result of the chemical processes that are used to make the drug. The smell is a result of the final steps of the synthesis process, and while vinegar is a smell often associated with heroin, it doesn’t always have a strong smell of vinegar. The better heroin is washed at the end of synthesis or the purer it is, the less likely it is to have a strong vinegar odor.
Black tar heroin is cheaper and less pure than other forms of heroin. The reason it’s dark in color is that the processing it goes through leaves impurities that are both chemical and bacterial. The solid form of heroin isn’t as strong as pure heroin, so this form of the drug is often mixed with acid and other additives to increase the high the person achieves. Ultimately, it’s these additives and other chemicals that contribute to why heroin smells like vinegar. With that being said, black tar heroin will have a much stronger smell of vinegar than any of the other types of the drug.
Signs of Heroin Abuse
Heroin enters the brain rapidly and binds to opioid receptors on cells located in many areas, especially those involved in feelings of pain and pleasure and in controlling heart rate, sleeping, and breathing.
People report feeling a “rush” (a surge of pleasure, or euphoria), when abusing Heroin. Nevertheless there are other short-term symptoms of heroin addiction, this can include:
- Dry mouth
- Warm flushing of the skin
- Heavy feeling in the arms and legs
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe itching
- Clouded mental functioning
- Going “on the nod,” a back-and-forth state of being conscious and semiconscious.
People who consume heroin may develop the following conditions over time, be careful of these signs:
- Collapsed veins for people who inject the drug
- Damaged tissue inside the nose for people who sniff or snort it
- Infection of the heart lining and valves
- Abscesses (swollen tissue filled with pus)
- Constipation and stomach cramping
- Liver and kidney disease
- Lung complications, including pneumonia
- Mental disorders such as depression and antisocial personality disorder
- Sexual dysfunction for men
- Irregular menstrual cycles for women
Heroin often contains additives, such as sugar, starch, or powdered milk, that can clog blood vessels leading to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain, causing permanent damage. Also, sharing drug injection equipment and having impaired judgment from drug use can increase the risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis.
Heroin Addiction Treatment Center
Once heroin detox is complete, it is time for treatment to start. Heroin addiction treatment generally involves therapy to reveal and address the underlying causes of substance use. Therapy methods vary depending on the rehabilitation center for drug addicts and their philosophy, patient preferences, and any present dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders.
The most common therapies involve behavioral counseling therapies, which address the user’s reason for starting and continuing using drugs. These therapies often take place in individual (one-on-one) therapy, group therapy, and family therapy. Therapy also addresses cravings throughout and following treatment.
Counseling is an integral component in heroin addiction treatment since addiction is more than just physical dependence. Once the user has successfully detoxed, thereby eliminating the physical dependence, they are still at risk of relapsing. Psychological and social factors such as stress, social networks, and environmental cues are often powerful stimuli for heroin relapse and can cause ongoing cravings.
Counseling therapy helps manage cravings and develop healthier coping mechanisms to handle life stresses without the use of heroin. With so many counseling therapies available, there is not one exact method that is more beneficial than others. Likewise, a single approach does not apply to every person, which is why it is crucial to create a customized treatment plan to address each individual’s unique requirements.
Individual, Group, and Family Counselling Therapy
Counseling is available at individual, group, and family levels. Individual counseling is a one-on-one form of therapy that focuses on stopping heroin use, committing to a treatment plan, education, and skill-building. Group counseling complements individual counseling by offering social support from peers who are going through a similar experience while family counseling is ideal for educating all members of the family and overcoming issues that stem from addiction.
Types of Counseling that are Beneficial for Heroin Addiction
Counselors provide numerous services to people in heroin addiction treatment such as evaluation, treatment planning, and counseling, along with therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), contingency management, 12 Step programs, and Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET).
CBT helps those in recovery learn to recognize and stop negative behaviors and thinking patterns. It can help a person become aware of the situations, stressors, and feelings that lead to heroin use so that they can develop a different response or avoid them entirely. Additionally, CBT teaches essential coping skills that can be used in many situations.
This form of therapy reinforces positive behaviors, such as staying sober, by using incentives. It is a method that involves the use of vouchers, which allow the person to collect points for different situations, like showing up clean on a drug test. These points can then be used to acquire items that encourage healthy living.
12 Step Programs
12 Step programs such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) involve peer support groups that help by offering support and guidance. Unlike group therapy, a trained psychologist does not lead 12 Step programs.
Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)
MET increases motivation and encourages recovering addicts to commit to their plan to be actively involved in treatment and recovery. MET is generally used during the early stages of treatment to get people involved in treatment.