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Black tar heroin is mainly produced in Mexico. Black tar heroin may be sticky like roofing tar or hard like coal. The 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. These clinics are 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 overdose often results.
Black tar heroin is most frequently dissolved, diluted, and then 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 and it is 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. 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. The black tar is 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. 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.