Heroin can take on many different looks, textures, and purity levels. It is also important to note the different ways it can be packaged. In the Midwest, it is typically found in a powder form, but is a more black tar substance in the west coast. White powder is more common in the Midwest, but there are other colors. The different colors are typical in relation to purity.
In a powder, heroin can come in different shades of white and brown. Other more common colors within the United States, as stated by www.drugfreeworld.org, include rose gray, brown and black. The different colors can signify the heroin’s purity, the different substances, including toxins, that the heroin was cut with, or a different region where the heroin was created. Being “cut” means the heroin is mixed with other powdered substances. This makes using heroin even more dangerous because the user does not know what is mixed in with the heroin.
The mixing occurs for many reasons. Dealers may increase their profit by selling less actual heroin without the user knowing. Sometimes mixing is intentional because of a desired combined reaction from heroin and what it is mixed with. Benzodiazepines are a common mixture and are the most lethal combination for an overdose.
Common substances used to cut with heroin include sugar, caffeine and toxins. The toxins do not dissolve and can cause permanent damage to blood vessels.
Different Purities Within Region
Heroin is not sold at 100% purity. Different regions and dealers throughout the United States use different levels of purity. If an addict buys from a specific region or dealer in which the heroin is found to be about 22% pure and then buys from a different region or dealer whose heroin is found to be at a 33% level, overdose may be a realistic outcome.
Typical trends of purity are found in different regions but can change very easily depending on the dealers. This is only meant to show the dangers – the following were all found on www.justice.gov/archive.
The northeast and east coast heroin tends to have the highest level of purity, averaging about 50-90%. The west coast heroin averages about 25% pure and typically sells more black tar and brown powdered heroin. In Illinois, the purity has been found to range between 20-30% on the streets.
Different Ways Heroin is Packaged and Sold
- Folded up aluminum squares – used to package white powder.
- Balloons – dealers place heroin (usually black tar) in a balloon and tie the top.
- Gelatin capsules – capsules are emptied and refilled with powdered heroin.
- Small parts of plastic bags, small Ziploc®-type bags