Despite the occasional headline announcing a prescription drug recall, one rarely considers the possibility that the medication you are taking is contaminated. Those taking illicit drugs, however, live on the flip side of that equation.
Almost, as a rule, street drugs are sliced, diced, cut, mixed, diluted, jacked-up, or watered down. They come through a supply chain of very questionable interests. Even now, the contaminated opioids California is watching ravage the state has shocked both the medical profession and the public at large.
In so many words, the era of contaminated synthetics has arrived.
New Drugs That Are Cheap and Lethal
The motivation is clear. Drug users want drugs that are quicker, longer-lasting, cheaper, and more effective. Throw addiction into the mix and that motivation becomes much, much more unreasonable.
Contaminated street drugs are cut in order to make them at a cheaper price while also increasing profits. As these drugs are cut, there is careless handling and unsanitary conditions that also contaminate them. Just as dangerous, however, recreational drugs are frequently mixed with other drugs to create a new, more sensational high.
All of these methods are highly dangerous. And the results, sadly, often end up on the obituary page.
Drugs Cut For-Profits, Not Safety
When drugs are cut to make a profit, it can increase the dangers of drug use enormously. It is often assumed that every buyer along the supply chain cuts street drugs to keep a higher quality personal use while cutting a cheaper variety for sale to customers. Needless to say, the results can be disastrous. Risks are highly increased with each buyer along the way as other new drug owners mix who knows what into the drug supply.
Unsanitary conditions will also contaminate drugs. Illicit drugs are not always handled in the safest and cleanest conditions. It is commonly known, for example, that unsanitary needles are used to inject heroin or other substances which can cause even more harm such as botulism and other infections.
Botulism represents the “perfect storm” scenario for contaminated street drugs. This is because the initial symptoms — double vision, slurred speech, a thick feeling tongue, or dry mouth — imitate the effects of the illicit drug, so someone who has contracted wound botulism may not even realize they have the illness.
Secondly, “cooking” the contaminated heroin, which is commonly done before injecting it, will not reduce a user’s chances of contracting botulism. While you can treat botulism if caught early, any symptom you experience before treatment will not go away. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, if you don’t react before paralysis or difficulty breathing sets in, then those symptoms will be permanent.
Overdose Deaths Accelerated
The most common contaminated opioids California will see are drugs laced with fentanyl, one of the most dangerous street drugs to ever appear short of heroin or morphine themselves.
Given current trends, fentanyl may even surpass heroin someday as the deadliest street drug ever.
All the markers are there. In a chart published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the 19,000 synthetic painkiller overdose deaths in 2016 already look like the lower corner of a frightening “J” curve.
That “J” curve starts in 1999 with almost zero deaths in the United States attributed to synthetic opioid overdose deaths. But by 2013, that number had climbed to 5,000 deaths from opioid overdoses, a remarkable escalation. Unfortunately, it only took three more years after that to reach 19,000. The following year in 2017, it was close to 30,000.
Cheap, Effective, and Lethal
The problems with synthetics opioids are two-fold. They are incredibly lethal and they are incredibly effective.
Fentanyl alone is said to be 50 – 100 times more effective than the gold standard of painkillers, morphine. Fentanyl has chemical analogs that are off the charts stronger. Sufentanil, for example, is said to be 500-1,000 times stronger than morphine and that doesn’t even touch carfentanil, which is said to be 10,000 times more potent than morphine.
These incredibly effective painkillers are equally effective as killers.
Tiny Amounts Can Kill You
To illustrate its lethality, imagine a small amount of fentanyl covering the four-digit date on a penny – that small amount alone can be fatal. In the hands of an untrained chemist, just think of the risks of fentanyl.
In fact, Fentanyl is so deadly that first responders arriving at the scene of a drug overdose need to put on gloves and face masks before treating an overdose victim. These drugs can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled, or ingested to take effect.
It is fentanyl, of course, that has health officials, rehabilitation centers, social workers, parents, and the general public scared out of their wits. Like the HIV virus when it first came about, when it was a guaranteed death sentence, fentanyl and its derivatives have put an already dangerous addiction epidemic into a terrifying new orbit. The potential for cheap highs, big profits, and quick trips to the morgue is a frightening combination no matter how you cut it up.
Rehab services from Ocean Hills Recovery can help a person effectively end an addiction to fentanyl and other illicit, unsafe drugs. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, contact our trusted and caring staff today.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.