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Chasing the Black Dragon

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 40 Issue: 11 Dated: (November 1992) Pages: 81-84
S M Hougland
Date Published
4 pages
Black tar, also known as "Black Dragon," is a new, smokable form of heroin that some experts believe will overtake crack cocaine in popularity.
Black tar heroin is produced in the Mexican states of Durango, Sinaloa, and Sonora. The technique used to process black tar heroin is more rapid and economical than that required to produce higher quality white or brown heroin. Black tar procedures allow campesinos, who normally earn about $6 a day, to produce 3 to 5 kilograms of tar per day during the harvest season. They can then sell the tar to traffickers for about $600 per kilogram. In turn, the same kilogram is sold wholesale in the United States for about $150,000. Black tar is smuggled into the United States by illegal aliens and migrant farm workers. Unlike cocaine, which is typically smuggled in large quantities, black tar is usually distributed in 6 to 10 ounce plastic packages wrapped in masking tape. A Drug Enforcement Administration report indicates that black tar has been detected in 27 States and is suspected to be present in all Mexican-American communities in the United States. Black tar in the United States has an average purity of about 40 percent at the street level. A significant effect of black tar has been an increase in heroin-related injuries. The most noticeable symptoms of black tar use are similar to those of powdered heroin. Users often become lethargic with a runny nose or mouth and typically experience constricted pinpoint pupils, diarrhea, and vomiting. Other complications, such as stroke, lung problems, and a general state of poor health are common among black tar addicts. Black tar heroin can be smoked or injected. Police officers and managers should be aware of physiological signs of heroin use and should be extremely cautious when dealing with black tar distributors since many are armed and violent. Difficulties associated with prosecuting black tar cases are noted.


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