What Does Heroin Look Like

What is Heroin? What does heroin look like? Heroin can be a white or brown powder, or a black sticky substance is known as black tar heroin. This opioid drug is highly addictive because the excessive use of heroin often develops a tolerance. In other words, users will need higher and/or more frequent doses of […]

What is Heroin?

What does heroin look like? Heroin can be a white or brown powder, or a black sticky substance is known as black tar heroin. This opioid drug is highly addictive because the excessive use of heroin often develops a tolerance. In other words, users will need higher and/or more frequent doses of the drug to get the desired effects. Substance use disorders (SUD) may develop when you are suffering from Heroin addiction. [1]

It is when continued use of the drug causes issues, such as health problems and failure to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home. In this case, there is a range of treatments that are effective in helping people stop heroin use. However, heroin addiction treatment plans should be individualized to meet the needs of the patient.

Is Heroin Addictive?

Regular use of heroin can lead to tolerance. This means users need more and more drugs to have the same effect. At higher doses over time, the body becomes dependent on heroin. If dependent users stop heroin, they have heroin withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, diarrhea and vomiting, and cold flashes with goosebumps.

Heroin is an opioid, and it binds to receptors in the brain to release the chemical dopamine. But, this release is only temporary which leaves some people wanting more of the “good” feeling.

Data from 2011 also showed that an estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids—a broad group of pain-relieving drugs—switch to heroin and about 80 percent of people who used heroin first misused prescription opioids. [2] Moreover, these prescription opioid pain medicines may include OxyContin® and Vicodin®.

Opiate Withdrawal
What does heroin look like? In the purest form, heroin looks like a fine white powder, but it can appear in other colors.

The misuse of prescription opioids sometimes begins with legal drugs like painkillers that are prescribed after a surgery or some other injury. If you become addicted to these prescribed medications and cannot obtain them anymore, you may pursue illegal drugs like heroin to achieve the same pleasurable feeling. Therefore, anyone who takes opioids can be at risk for developing an opioid use disorder or an addiction to heroin.

In addition, addiction is multifaceted and can happen to anyone. It can include genetic, psychological, and environmental factors. Other risk factors are:

  • Drug availability
  • Drug trafficking patterns
  • Association with drug-abusing peers
  • Beliefs that drug abuse can be tolerated

The physical symptoms of heroin use occur rapidly. After injecting it, someone will experience drug-induced euphoria quickly, often within seconds. Other means of using heroin don’t produce a reaction as quickly, but users show signs of being high when the drug reaches their brain. [3]

Physical symptoms of heroin addiction include:

  • dry mouth
  • flushed skin
  • constricted pupils
  • falling asleep suddenly
  • slow breathing
  • loss of self-control
  • itching
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • constipation

Other symptoms of heroin addiction include:

  • feelings of heaviness
  • confused thinking or disorientation
  • difficulty making decisions
  • memory loss

People who use heroin regularly often need laxatives or stool softeners because the drug can cause constipation.


What Does Heroin Look Like
Users are unaware of how much actual heroin is being used, creating the likelihood of overdose.

Pure heroin looks like a white powder and maybe smoked or snorted. Darker, more impure heroin is diluted or dissolved, and then injected into one’s skin, muscles, or veins. The nature of the drug’s effects brings an increased risk of a drug overdose. Exacerbating the problem further are variations in purity. The Centers for Disease Control reported over 10,500 heroin overdose deaths in 2014, which is more than quadruple the number in 2002, in part because of unknown purity and the presence of cutting agents and filler.

What does heroin look like in the streets? 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. [4]

Types of Heroin

Southeast Asian heroin is stereotypically white, powdered, highly water-soluble, and acidic; Southwest Asian heroin is typically a brown coarse powder with poor water solubility (until acidified from its basic form by the addition of an acid) and good heat stability; Colombian heroin is off-white to light brown, powdered and acidic with good water solubility; Mexican heroin is dark brown to black, solid, vaporizable, of lower purity and despite its acidity, requires heat to go into aqueous solution.

What does heroin look like and what are the ingredients? 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. In addition to diacetylmorphine and fentanyl, street heroin may contain a variety of other street and prescription drugs, including methamphetamine.

Black tar heroin looks like a sticky chunk of blackish brownish substance. It is produced by a very crude process in which the opiate that is produced is relatively unrefined compared to white powder heroin. Further processing of black tar heroin, and cutting with lactose, can produce brown powder heroin. White powder heroin in its purest form is a salt form of the drug, known as diacetylmorphine hydrochloride, although it will typically be mixed or “cut” with other white powders. These reduce the potency and increase the risk of contamination and vein damage if the drug is injected. [5]

How is Heroin Made?

Heroin coming into the United States historically comes from three widely dispersed geographical regions: Southwest Asia, Southeast Asia, and Mexico. The fourth source of US-bound heroin, from Colombia, originated in the early 1990s. The fact that the four heroin sources produce differing morphologies and qualities of heroin has not been critically examined.

Complicating this portrayal of the political economy of heroin is the fact that different global sources of heroin produce substantially different products. Source and type of heroin are structural factors in the risk environment of heroin users: source dictates distribution and type predicts practice. How specific types of heroin are used and with what risk is therefore distributed geographically.

Heroin production source and retail market have become increasingly intertwined: heroin from Colombia and Mexico is sold exclusively in the US; heroin from the Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia, once smuggled throughout the world, is currently limited to Australia and Canada; and heroin originating from poppies grown in Afghanistan and refined in Pakistan (Southwest Asia) is sold predominantly in Europe. Furthermore, there is regional distribution in the US: Colombian heroin prevails in the eastern US, while heroin from Mexico is found almost exclusively in the western US. These routes have been shaped by competition and supply control efforts complicated by liberalized global trade. There is no evidence that these trade routes are shaped at all by consumer demand. [6]

How is Heroin Taken?

Users may inject, sniff, snort, or smoke heroin, for instance. Some people mix heroin with crack cocaine, a practice called speedballing. And then, they typically report feeling a surge of pleasurable sensation—a “rush.”

What Does Heroin Look Like
A range of treatments including medications and behavioral therapies are effective in helping people stop heroin addiction.

Heroin Addiction Treatment

If you are addicted to drugs such as heroin, your very first step in recovery should be to medical detox in a safe and medically supervised setting. That is why We Level Up is here for you. We Level Up TX Detox center medically assist clients to clear their systems of addictive substances, such as heroin.

For anyone who suffers from addiction, we know that just the thought of having to stop using can cause severe mental distress. Given that, the medical detox center will help you manage the medical detox process. A comprehensive team prescribing medications can alleviate your withdrawal pains while monitoring your health 24 hours. Assuring both your safety and comfort.

We Level Up TX’s thorough approach to rehabilitation supports several levels of care to ensure the best possible outcome for every patient who enters our doors. From an intensive and more supportive atmosphere for those in the early days of recovery to a comfortable residential-style living dynamic upon completion of detox, we are here to help guide you down the safe and results-based path to your sobriety.

Once detox is complete, a new doorway in treatment opens up, which is referred to as a residential level of care. The residential care program slowly and effectively introduces the individual into an atmosphere of therapeutic growth, marked by Master’s level therapists, clinicians, group counselors, psychiatrists, and a community of like-minded individuals with the same aim: to attain sobriety and live a great life.

Some of the many modalities applied and practiced within our residential treatment facility are:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • 12-Step Groups
  • Group Therapy
  • Biofeedback
  • Alumni Support
  • Stabilization
  • Holistic Therapy

We Level Up TX addiction treatment provides the needs of each patient and is specific and personalized, as we aim to provide comprehensive support for mental health, addiction, and dual diagnosis treatment.

Clients in the residential therapy programs will live comfortably within the facility during this crucial and fragile time. Indeed, this supportive environment is designed to give clients 24-hour care for sobriety, removing temptations for relapse and applying an air of recovery into every component of the treatment timeline, including heroin addiction treatment. We Level Up TX finds that when patients are living in a supportive community, especially during their early recovery process, they are able to truly focus on what matters most: their recovery.

Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Addiction counselors know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.


[1] Heroin – National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28582659 – Cicero TJ, Ellis MS, Kasper ZA. Increased use of heroin as an initiating opioid of abuse.
[3] Heroin Withdrawal, Symptoms, Detox, and Treatment – https://americanaddictioncenters.org/withdrawal-timelines-treatments/heroin
[4] Heroin Purity & Types: What Does Heroin Look Like? – https://americanaddictioncenters.org/heroin-treatment/purity
[5] Types of Heroin and Their Ingredients – https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-in-heroin-22048
[6] Heroin in brown, black and white: Structural factors and medical consequences in the US heroin market National Center for Biotechnology InformationU.S. National Library of Medicine