Fentanyl laced heroin is a product that many users don’t know they are buying with dangerous results. The drug is often marketed as heroin, or even a prescription opioid, and consumed with that in mind. This can be a deadly assumption, as the addition of fentanyl to other drugs is increasing. As illegal drugs are not subject to regulation, there is significant danger to purchasing and consuming drugs without knowing the precise contents or potency of those drugs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl is approved to treat cancer pain and other severe physical pain. It can be 100 times more powerful than morphine and prescribed as arm patches or lozenges. Many times, fentanyl is added to heroin and drugs that are purchased online and shipped from overseas. The consequences of using heroin laced with fentanyl can include poisoning, cardiac arrest and death from overdose.
Effort has been made by the United States to better regulate international shipments, but China remains the largest source for fentanyl.
Fentanyl Laced Heroin Enters the U.S.
Heroin laced with fentanyl is the latest in a tragic series of events around the opioid crisis. In 2010, during the rise of the opioid epidemic, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that 5.1 million Americans regularly took prescription drugs for pain. Only one in six of those had a prescription from a single doctor for the opioids they consumed. In 2011, 136.7 million prescriptions for hydrocodone (a powerful opioid) were given. Many states took action and introduced significant reforms on prescription practices. These reforms gave communities throughout the nation hope that the opioid crisis would wane with decreased access.
Unfortunately, greater demand was redirected to underground methods of obtaining the drugs. Opioids quickly became available through illegal means. Opioids and synthetic opioids, which have even stronger effects, grew increasingly common outside of medical use and prescriptions. People who are addicted to opioids will often seek additional drugs after their prescription runs out. This is when they turn to street drugs or unregulated sources. Drugs procured in this way can be untrustworthy and quite dangerous.
Why Is Heroin Laced with Fentanyl?
Heroin use has always been a problem due to its highly addictive nature. Heroin is now frequently laced with fentanyl, sometimes unbeknownst to the consumer, to exponentially increase its effects, creating a large physical impact.
Because it is synthetic, fentanyl does not require large poppy farms or the labor and cost of harvesting and creating the drug from natural sources. Fentanyl can be delivered in a very small form and is virtually odorless and tasteless.
Heroin Overdoses Skyrocket
Deaths linked to heroin laced fentanyl are on the rise as the drug combination becomes more common. Because of the unexpected potency, regular heroin users are vulnerable to abusing the purchased drug, assuming it only contains heroin. When fentanyl is mixed with heroin, the potency increases, as does the potential for overdose.
Fentanyl has changed the nature of street drugs, as it is more highly potent and easy to combine with other drugs. Initially, this was less of an issue with fentanyl being popular and sought out, but more an issue of it being covertly combined with other drugs and accidentally consumed.
Protecting Yourself from Fentanyl
People who buy and use drugs should maintain awareness about the dangers of fentanyl. When mixed with other drugs, unintentional overdose can occur. There are ways to protect yourself from this.
- Drug test strips are more widely available now and can be used to test drugs for fentanyl before consumption. These strips will very clearly and efficiently describe the contents of the drug.
- Avoid purchasing fake prescriptions. Fake prescriptions could provide the appearance of legitimacy but still be inauthentic and contain dangerous drugs.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “What is fentanyl?” N.D. Accessed August 6, 2019. Manchikanti, L. et al. “Opioid epidemic in the United States.” Pain Physician Journal. Published July 2012. Accessed August 6, 2019. O’Connor, Sean. “Fentanyl Flows from China: An Update since 2017.” U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Published November 26, 2018. Accessed August 6, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “What is fentanyl?” N.D. Accessed August 6, 2019.
Manchikanti, L. et al. “Opioid epidemic in the United States.” Pain Physician Journal. Published July 2012. Accessed August 6, 2019.
O’Connor, Sean. “Fentanyl Flows from China: An Update since 2017.” U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Published November 26, 2018. Accessed August 6, 2019.