All heroin is made from morphine, a substance extracted from the seed pods of the opium poppy.
Street heroin may be white, brown, pinkish, or black. Its texture may be powdery or sticky or hard. These differences are determined partly by how thoroughly the morphine has been refined. Dark, gooey heroin comes from the first stage of the process. Light, powdery heroin results from more extensive processing.
It’s a mistake to assume that lighter-colored forms of heroin are purer, or that darker ones are more “natural” or less addictive. All street heroin has been diluted with cheaper additives. Those substances (including sugar, chalk, nutmeg, and detergent, among many others) can alter the drug’s appearance. Small variations in chemicals and processing may also have an effect.
All this means that without a chemical test, it’s impossible to tell for sure how extensively your sample has been processed or how potent it actually is.
Black Tar Heroin
Black Tar is the fastest and cheapest kind of heroin to make, and also the cheapest to buy. It doesn’t necessarily contain less of the drug than more highly refined forms of heroin, but it does contain more potentially dangerous contaminants.
Despite its name, Black Tar may be deep brown or dark orange, or even light brown (when cut with a white powder like lactose.) It’s usually either sticky (like tar) or hard (like pebbles.) Black Tar smells like vinegar.
Brown heroin is usually more highly refined than Black Tar. (Though it may simply be Black Tar ground to powder and cut with a white additive.) It can be any shade of brown from pale to dark.
You may hear brown heroin referred to as diamorphine base. (Diacetylmorphine is the chemical name for heroin; base means that it’s a variety that doesn’t easily dissolve in water.) It’s also known as “Number 3”.
In order to dissolve, brown heroin requires the addition of an acid like lemon juice or vinegar. Brown heroin burns at a relatively low temperature, which makes it ideal for smoking.
White heroin (“Number 4”) is the most highly refined variety of the drug. (Again, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s pure.) It’s also the most expensive. “White” heroin may actually be white, or it may appear pink, beige, or light brown.
White heroin dissolves easily in water, and most users prefer to take it via injection. It burns at a higher temperature than brown heroin does, so it’s not considered ideal for smoking.
“China White” is a mixture of heroin and fentanyl, a potent opioid.