Black Tar Heroin Vs. Powder Heroin: What’s The Difference

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on July 5, 2021

Black tar heroin is a solid form of the drug. Heroin is also processed into powder and liquid form. All forms of heroin are made from morphine, a substance derived from the seed pods of opium poppy plants.

What Is The Difference Between Black Tar Heroin And Powder Heroin?

Black tar heroin is a solid form of the illicit drug. Heroin is commonly found as a powder and as a liquid.

Powder forms may be white or brown in color. Black tar heroin is a sticky and rock-like substance that may appear dark brown or black.

Heroin’s drug composition will influence its texture, solubility, pH, heat stability, weight, volume, and purity. These factors influence whether the drug is snorted, smoked, or injected.

The main differences between heroin and of black tar heroin may include:

  • side effects of the drugs
  • risks of the drugs
  • dangers specific to the way a person uses the drug (i.e. risks of smoking vs injecting heroin)

About Black Tar Heroin

Black tar resembles roofing tar and is dark in color. Its appearance is attributed to its crude manufacturing process.


This form of the drug is known for being less pure than powder heroin and may be no more than 30-40% pure.


Black tar heroin has a solid, rock-like texture that may be smoked, crushed into powder before snorting, or injecting.

Abuse Methods

This form of the drug requires heating in order to liquefy into an aqueous solution before injecting.

Risks Of Use

Black tar heroin may be contaminated by bacteria and is known for causing skin and tissue infections during an intravenous injection.

It is also known for clogging needles and causing extensive vein damage.

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About White Powder Heroin

White powder heroin is the most popular form of heroin on the drug market.


Powder heroin is known for its purity. Compared to black tar heroin, it tends to have the purest concentration levels of the drug.


Its light color and appearance may vary due to cutting and bulking agents used. This powder form of heroin may be snorted, injected, or smoked.

Abuse Methods

White powder heroin is a water-soluble salt form of the drug with a high burning temperature, making it more common to inject rather than smoke.

Risks Of Use

Injecting dissolved powder heroin comes with a host of risks separate from smoking it or injecting black tar heroin, which may contain more additives than the powder form.

Some of these risks include skin infections, the risk of contracting infectious diseases, and more.

About Brown Powder Heroin

Brown powder heroin is considered to be a less potent form of heroin, compared to white powder.


However, the reduced purity of the drug reflects in its cheaper price, which provides a less expensive alternative for individuals addicted to the substance.


Brown powder heroin will look somewhat like white powdered heroin, except that it will be an off-brown color and coarse.

Abuse Methods

Brown powder heroin is commonly smoked, however, it may also be injected or snorted. However, this form of heroin burns at a lower temperature, making it easier to smoke.

When it is injected, it requires the addition of a citric or ascorbic acid to become soluble in water.

Risks Of Use

Smoking brown powder heroin comes with risks such as the increased risk of lung cancer, infections, effects on immune health, and more.

Getting Help For A Heroin Addiction

All forms of heroin can lead to addiction, dangerous health complications, and overdose.

Without substance abuse treatment, many people who are addicted to the drug go on to develop adverse health conditions and side effects.

If you or a loved one has a heroin addiction, contact our helpline today to find a heroin addiction treatment program.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on July 5, 2021
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