Many drugs have specific looks, textures and smells that make it easy to identify them. Unlike marijuana’s pungent herb and sage smell before and after being burned, heroin is oftentimes odorless in its purest form. However, when diluted or manipulated, heroin is recognized from its acidic, vinegar-like smell.

Why Does Heroin Smell Like Vinegar?

The general answer to why heroin smells like vinegar is because it’s a result of the chemical processes that are used to make the drug. The smell is a result of the final steps of the synthesis process, and while vinegar is a smell often associated with heroin, it doesn’t always have a strong smell of vinegar. The better heroin is washed at the end of synthesis or the purer it is, the less likely it is to have a strong vinegar odor.

Black tar heroin is cheaper and less pure than other forms of heroin. The reason it’s dark in color is that the processing it goes through leaves impurities that are both chemical and bacterial. The solid form of heroin isn’t as strong as pure heroin, so this form of the drug is often mixed with acid and other additives to increase the high the person achieves. Ultimately, it’s these additives and other chemicals that contribute to why heroin smells like vinegar. With that being said, black tar heroin will have a much stronger smell of vinegar than any of the other types of the drug.

What is Heroin?

Heroin, scientifically known as diacetylmorphine, is a powerful and highly addictive opiate drug processed from morphine. In the early 1900s, heroin was intended to be a non-addictive substitute for pain relief. It was also used as a cough suppressant for children through the Bayer pharmaceutical company. Once the addictive qualities were realized, heroin was banned and made illegal across the United States.

This opiate drug comes in many forms, but it is typically sold as an off-white or brown powder that can be eaten, smoked, snorted or injected. In its purest form, heroin is sold as a pure white powder with a bitter taste. On the street, users are likely to come across black tar heroin, a lower quality of the drug in solid form. Unlike pure heroin, black tar is impure and cheap, typically appearing black or dark in color with the consistency of a rock or roofing tar. What helps to distinguish this form is its potent vinegar or medicinal smell.

Black Tar Heroin

Black tar heroin is a cheaper, impure version of heroin. Its dark color is a result of synthetic processing that leaves behind remnants of chemical and bacterial impurities. Because the solid form is not as potent as pure heroin, black tar is manipulated with other acidic additives to enhance and prolong the high. These additives in combination with other chemicals added to the mix produce a vinegar-like smell.

Street heroin or black tar is never exactly the same from batch to batch. Because it may be cut with so many things, it is more difficult to understand correct doses and the potency, increasing the likelihood of overdose or adverse reactions to the drug. Users will also spend more money for larger portions of black tar since the high is short-lived.

If you or a loved one live with addiction or are using drugs recreationally and want to stop, The Recovery Village can help. Reach out to one of our representatives today to learn how you can start on your path to recovery.

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    The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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