- Heroin IV users place themselves at greater risk of contracting the HIV/AIDS virus.
- Street names associated with heroin include "smack," "H," "skag," and "junk." Other names may refer to types of heroin produced in a specific geographical area, such as "Mexican black tar."
- In the brain, heroin is converted to morphine and binds rapidly to opioid receptors.
- Recent studies suggest a shift from injecting to snorting or smoking heroin because of increased purity and the misconception that these forms of use will not lead to addiction.
Black Tar Heroin
Black tar heroin is produced only in Mexico. Black tar heroin may be sticky like roofing tar or hard like coal, and its color may vary from dark brown to black. The color and consistency of black tar heroin result from the crude processing methods used to illicitly manufacture heroin in Mexico. Black tar heroin is often sold on the street in its tar-like state at purity ranging from 20 to 80 percent. Commonly, black tar heroin is sold in small foil or cellophane packets or in small toy balloons. To develop customers quickly, dealers may specifically target methadone clinics, where heroin addicts receive the drug methadone which blocks their need for heroin. These individuals become easy prey for the dealer and frequently become regular clients. The potency of street heroin is rarely known and overdoses often result.
Black tar heroin is most frequently dissolved, diluted, and injected. Black tar heroin addicts place a small amount of black tar heroin in a spoon. The spoon they use is bent so that it sits level without spilling when placed on a table. Then they add a small amount of water which is then heated over a flame. Once the black tar heroin has melted it is drawn up into a syringe and injected. This method of administration poses special problems because of the transmission of HIV and other diseases that can occur from sharing needles or other injection equipment used. Paraphernalia for injecting black tar heroin includes hypodermic needles, small cotton balls (used to strain the drug), water, and spoons or bottle caps used for "cooking" or liquefying the heroin. The high from black tar usually lasts from four to six hours.
Southern California, primarily Los Angeles, is a major transportation and distribution hub for Mexican black tar heroin and brown powdered heroin destined for drug markets in California and throughout the United States. Nearly all of the heroin produced in Mexico is destined for U.S. distribution, and Mexico-based heroin continues to dominate the market in the western half of the United States. Evidence suggests that trafficking organizations from Mexico are attempting to produce higher purity heroin. Mexican heroin distribution networks in the United States are managed almost entirely by criminal organizations operating from Mexico and by Mexican-American criminal gangs that are in charge of the street-level distribution of heroin. In the past, couriers typically smuggled only small quantities of heroin across the U.S.-Mexico border. Now, however, heroin is being smuggled in larger amounts, as indicated by the seizure of larger shipments.