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Heroin Identification

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If you stumbled across a bag full of white powder, would you be able to identify it? How many drugs could you list off the top of your head that often look like a white powder?

Finding an unknown substance, especially in the safety of your home, can be terrifying. Here at Pacific Sands, we understand that. As a facility that utilizes a solution-focused approach to tackling substance use disorders in our community, we’ve seen the success that comes from answering common questions. 

In 2019, over 150,000 adults in California reported taking heroin at least once. That’s why, in today’s blog, we’re going to talk about heroin identification and what to do if you find it.

Why Might You Need to Identify Heroin?

Are there that many scenarios where you might encounter an unknown substance? Even within those scenarios, how many will you actually need to identify them?

While not common, there might be instances when you’re out in public and you encounter obvious drug paraphernalia. If this is the case, identifying it shouldn’t be part of your concern. Make sure you don’t engage with it and call the non-emergency police line to report the substance in question. 

The time when you might feel compelled to identify an unknown substance is when you stumble across it in your own home. Knowing what substance your partner might be engaging with can help you approach them about it.

what are the ways you can safely identify heroin

What Are the Ways You Can Safely Identify Heroin?

So, you’ve found an unknown substance in your home, or your partner’s belongings. Whether it’s a bag of white power, an unlabelled pill container, or a syringe tucked away, let’s go through the ways you could safely determine what the substance might be.

Can You Visually Identify Heroin?

Heroin comes in a few different forms. The most common form is a powdery substance. This is most often white, off-white, or even brown in color. The texture can look similar to flour or corn starch and is easy to mistake for the two especially when in its purer white form.

Another common form of heroin goes by a different name – black tar heroin. As the name implies, black tar heroin is often a very dark brown or black. It’s sticky to the touch but at a glance, may look like a rock or even a piece of charcoal. 

In some cases, you might even find heroin in a dark, liquid form. These often come in sealed bags and have a color similar to that of soy sauce.

While black tar heroin or brown powdered forms of heroin might be able to be semi-reliably identified by sight alone, this is not a guarantee.

Can You Taste Heroin to Identify It?

Heroin is an opioid that is made from morphine. Because of its chemical and pharmaceutical origins, it’s often very bitter in taste. It can sometimes taste similar to medicine or vitamins, too.

It’s not advised to taste heroin as a means of identifying it, as you don’t know exactly what you’re putting into your system.

Can You Smell Heroin to Identify It?

One of the most common ways to consume heroin is via snorting. Because of this, smelling heroin can be dangerous as you can get particles in your system as you inhale. 

The exact scent of heroin can vary depending on what else is in it, where it was made, and more. Many have compared the smell of heroin to that of vinegar, medication, or even a box of bandaids. Heroin can also be odorless, so using smell to identify it can be inconsistent.

Is There a Way to Tell Heroin Apart From Other Opioids?

Heroin is not the only opioid that is sought outside of a medical setting. Across the country, prescription painkiller misuse happens every day, and California is no exception. So how can you tell apart heroin from these other opioids that are on the market?

Heroin rarely comes in a pill form, which is very common for many prescription painkillers. In the case of things like Vicodin or Oxycontin, you can google what their pills look like as a way to compare to what you’ve found.

Unfortunately, these can often be crushed into a powder form, and opioids like fentanyl are commonly found in a powder form to begin with. While you can’t easily distinguish a white powder heroin from other white powder opioids, you can utilize fentanyl test strips to see if the substance in question has fentanyl in it.

The Different Forms and Colors of Heroin

As we mentioned earlier, heroin doesn’t just come in a white powder form. Brown powder and black tar heroin are common variants of the substance. When it’s in these forms, it’s far easier to tell it apart from other opioids.

Fentanyl also has a few additional forms that are visually distinct from heroin. One such is referred to as “rainbow fentanyl.” Rainbow fentanyl is a pill form of fentanyl that is dyed in a variety of bright colors.

Using Context Clues to Help Identify Heroin

There are ways to help you further solidify if what you found was heroin outside of visual clues. This is when you turn to look at whomever you think the heroin might belong to. You can get context clues from them in everything from their behavior to physical side effects and even the way they speak.

Street Names and Common Slang for Heroin

For those who engage in substance use, it’s not uncommon for them to adopt nicknames or “street names” for the substances they often consume. This is done in order to hide the topic at hand from those who aren’t in the loop, helping protect them from being found out.

While not every street name is always going to be publicly known, we do have a list of the most common street names for heroin. This includes Brown, Chiva, Harry, Hell Dust, Horse, Junk, Smack, and Thunder. It’s important to note that street names can vary by state and city, and social media can make it easier for new street names to form and be passed around. If you hear your partner use an odd word in a sentence, listen to the context clues to get a better idea if they’re saying a “street name” for a substance.

With how common texting is, it’s not surprising that there are also certain emojis used in the same manner as a street name. In the case of heroin, 🤎 and 🐉 are the most common emojis used in reference to it.

The Most Common Side Effects of Heroin Use

It can be difficult to casually overhear your loved one talking about heroin with someone else. What isn’t as difficult, however, is paying attention to the behavioral changes and side effects of heroin use that they are showcasing.

With any form of substance use, long-term consumption can impact the body and lead to a myriad of side effects. Here are some of the most common ones you can look out for.

  • Abscesses
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Constipation
  • New or worsening financial problems
  • Intense sadness
  • New or worsening dental issues
  • Scars and vein damage
  • Developing heart, skin, or lung infections
  • Increased anxiety or depression

Alongside these effects, you might also notice your loved one withdrawing from friends they used to like hanging out with. They might stop participating in activities they used to enjoy. People who are managing a heroin use disorder often damage relationships with loved ones either by their behavioral changes or by withdrawing from them entirely.

If any of these signs are hitting home for you, we’re here to tell you that there is help available.

is there a way to tell heroin apart from other opioids

Where to Find Treatment for Heroin Use in California

Stepping away from heroin can seem daunting and overwhelming. Whether you want to help your loved one, or you’re the one who’s decided to take the step to seek help for yourself, we’re here to help. 

One of the first steps in seeking recovery from a heroin use disorder often comes from detox. A heroin detox program helps you through withdrawals, and managing cravings and side effects, to build a strong foundation for your long-term recovery journey.

From there, inpatient and outpatient services provide you with ongoing support and treatment. You will learn new skills to help address future triggers while also diving into your learned behaviors to identify the root causes that led to substance use in the first place.

There’s no wrong time to get started. With our intimate facility here at Pacific Sands, you’ll be certain to get the one-on-one, individualized treatment that you deserve. We’re here and committed to seeing your needs met during your recovery. Give us a call at 949-426-7962 and our team will be happy to help.

Pacific Sands – The first step towards a new life.


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