Fentanyl is one of the strongest synthetic opioid painkillers on the market today, and it’s become the number one culprit in opioid-related overdoses. From 2013 to 2016, fatal overdoses involving fentanyl doubled each year. This is a terrifyingly quick rise and it doesn’t appear that those numbers will begin going down anytime soon.
One of the most alarming facts about fentanyl is that many people who overdose on the drug don’t even realize they’re taking it. Fentanyl is so strong – about 100 times stronger than morphine – that even the smallest dose can kill a person.
So how is it possible that so many people are fatally overdosing on a drug without even intending to take it? A new trend is emerging: street drugs are being cut with fentanyl.
How is Fentanyl Getting into Street Drugs?
Most commonly, fentanyl can be found in cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine sold on the streets.
If dealers are packaging multiple types of drugs in the same place, accidental cross-contamination may occur. Users may also be purposely mixing fentanyl with other drugs to achieve a different kind of high.
But it may be more sinister than that.
Authorities have to consider the possibility that dealers are adding fentanyl to their drugs secretly, without telling the buyer. This may be done for a few reasons.
- To expand their clientele to include fentanyl addicts
- To make their product more addictive to their existing clientele
- To make their supply go further for cheaper
Law enforcement agencies have discovered that some dealers are selling fentanyl but telling buyers it’s heroin. Generally, fentanyl is much cheaper to make and more potent than heroin, so this lie bumps up their profit margins. The effects of the two drugs are similar, so buyers may believe they’re simply using a more potent version of heroin.
This raises the risk of overdose. When the user tries to administer fentanyl thinking it’s heroin, they can easily end up taking way too much. Since fentanyl can be around 50 times more potent than heroin, it isn’t hard to accidentally wind up dead.
While purposeful mixing by dealers is a possibility, it’s unlikely to be the only explanation, particularly when we look at the mixture of fentanyl with cocaine – a drug with very different effects to opioids.
While it’s hard to be certain exactly why or how fentanyl is ending up in street drugs, there is one important thing to note: using drugs has become even more dangerous than ever. The risk of overdose is rising thanks to fentanyl.
If you’re worried about your use of drugs – fentanyl or otherwise – consider seeking help.