Heroin is an opioid drug that can be deadly on its own. As with other opioids, when someone uses heroin it binds to certain receptors across the central nervous system. This action causes a euphoric high and pain relief but also suppresses respiration. When someone overdoses on heroin, their breathing becomes so slow they go into a coma or die. Along with the risk of overdose, heroin also quickly leads to addiction. Addiction can cause breakdowns in the person’s career, relationships and life in general.
If that weren’t enough, there’s another concern with this drug in the form of heroin cutting agents. Heroin cutting agents are included in heroin sold on the streets, often without the knowledge of the person purchasing the drug. These cutting agents can be harmful and, in some cases, far more so than the heroin itself. There’s typically no way to determine if a batch of heroin contains cutting agents.
What Are Heroin Cutting Agents?
Cutting heroin refers to the drug being combined with another substance, whether that be a household agent, a chemical or another drug. One objective of adding in heroin cutting agents before they’re sold is to fill them with something that’s cheaper than the actual drug. The practice of cutting drugs increases the profits for the dealer.
Some of the most common heroin cutting agents include baking soda, sugar, talcum powder, powdered milk, laundry detergent and even rat poison. With these heroin cutting agents, there are a couple of different risks. Even though they may seem like relatively non-toxic items, if they’re snorted or injected directly into the bloodstream they can be very dangerous and can build-up in the bloodstream, causing infections and other health concerns. If heroin is cut with something like caffeine, it can mask the symptoms that you’ve taken too much heroin, increasing the chance of an overdose.
In the past, cutting drugs was only about adding filler, but there have been some shifts in the market in the last decade. Now cutting heroin is also done to make it a more potent drug. More potency theoretically means buyers are happier with the product and its effects. When someone buys heroin or another drug on the streets, its purity level is often very low. It may only include 10 to 15 percent of the actual drug the person believes they’re buying.
Cutting Heroin with Fentanyl
Fentanyl is a highly powerful synthetic opioid, and it’s regularly found in heroin, especially when batches of heroin lead to outbreaks of overdose deaths. If a batch of heroin cut with fentanyl hits a particular city or town, there will often be a spike in overdoses and deaths in a short period. Fentanyl is anywhere from 30 to 50 percent more potent than heroin itself, according to the DEA. It’s so potent that just coming in contact with a tiny amount of fentanyl can cause an overdose or death.
Another especially dangerous heroin cutting product is carfentanil.
Carfentanil is used as a large animal tranquilizer, which itself indicates its potency. This synthetic opioid causes overdose and death outbreaks in the areas where it makes its way into the market. The DEA estimates carfentanil is 100 times more potent than fentanyl. Just a few grains can kill you almost immediately if you don’t have an opioid tolerance. Both fentanyl and carfentanil are so powerful that first responders have to wear protective gear when they think they may be coming in contact with the drugs at the scene of an overdose.
The reason for cutting heroin with fentanyl is because it’s cheap and easy to make these substances. Heroin has to start as poppy plants, and then be turned into morphine and then heroin. Fentanyl and carfentanil are synthetic, meaning they can be manufactured easily. They’re then cut into heroin and it’s such a powerful product that it’s extremely addictive. Some of these dangerous cutting agents are believed to come into the United States from China through Mexico.
The Dangers of Cutting Heroin
Heroin is an illicit drug and it can only be purchased on the streets, increasing the risks associated with its use. Cutting heroin with household items has been done for decades to improve profitability and bulk up what’s being sold. Now, heroin is cut with drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil. These heroin cutting agents are two big culprits in overdose and death spikes that frequently hit communities across the country.
When buying an illegal drug like heroin, there is no way to determine if it’s cut with something else, so every time a person does heroin they’re taking a chance.
According to one report, the number of people taking heroin in the United States went up 135% between 2002 and 2016. There were a reported 404,000 people misusing heroin in 2002, and that number was 948,000 in 2016. Even more startling was the number of fatal overdoses related to heroin. In 2002 that number was 2,089, and in 2016 it was more than 13,200 — representing an increase of 533%. According to Dr. Tom Price, Health and Human Services Secretary, more people in America have lost their lives to drugs than the Vietnam War.
That information comes from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. One of the big issues from the study related to the potency of drugs, often due to what heroin is cut with.
How The Recovery Village Can Help
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