Since 1999, almost 1 million people have lost their lives to a drug overdose. The majority of these overdose deaths are caused by synthetic opioids like fentanyl. This isn’t uncommon knowledge. Most people have heard about the dangers of this opioid. Those who illicitly sell fentanyl on the streets (dealers) know this better than anyone – so why are they still lacing drugs with it? Why are people still dying? Why does this keep happening?
At ReVIDA® Recovery, we know these deaths are preventable and that we can help. Let’s talk about why drugs are still being laced with fentanyl.
Why Are Drugs Laced with Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is FDA-approved to treat severe pain. Clinicians will often prescribe it post-surgery. Unlike other synthetic opioids like heroin, fentanyl is legal. So when it’s “laced” into another drug – it’s always against the law. Because of this, it’s mainly the street dealers who will mix fentanyl with other drugs. They do this for a few reasons:
- To save money. Fentanyl is 50-100 times more potent than other opioids. That means that dealers can mix a small amount of fentanyl into a small amount of heroin (or whatever else they’re selling) and the consumer usually doesn’t know the difference. The “high” will be adequate and the effects will be consistent. This saves the dealer from having to purchase enough heroin (or benzodiazepines, etc.) to meet customer demand.
- To stretch out their inventory and make more money. By including fentanyl in heroin, cocaine, or benzodiazepines, dealers can make their inventory last longer. They won’t need to make or buy other drugs as often. As long as they have fentanyl, they can sell drugs to a consumer – even if their stock is low. It allows them to always have available inventory, which encourages repeat customers.
- To increase the “high” of the drug they’re mixing it into. A little bit of fentanyl goes a long way. Dealers will often crush a minuscule amount of fentanyl into drugs like cocaine or heroin to increase the euphoric effects. This increases their revenue from regular customers. “Pure” heroin or cocaine is expensive, especially in large amounts. If a dealer can offer a drug for the same price but with a more intense “high”, it’s going to seem like a good business decision. Customers will return if they believe that the dealer has the “best” drugs.
Side Effects of Lacing Drugs With Fentanyl
Because of how common it is to overdose on pills (or powder) laced with fentanyl, it’s important to know what to do if you or someone you love has an adverse reaction. Here are some common things you should look out for, depending on the drug that has been compromised.
Lacing Cocaine With Fentanyl
The reaction of cocaine-laced fentanyl will differ slightly from other drug combinations. Cocaine is a stimulant and fentanyl is a depressant, and when stimulants and depressants are mixed, they can appear to cancel each other out. Sometimes when someone mixes these two, they’ll feel sober, so they’ll take more to increase the “high”. This gets particularly dangerous. While you may not be able to feel cocaine’s effects after taking fentanyl, it’s still in your system, which means you’re at risk for an overdose. Some signs of a cocaine and fentanyl overdose include:
- Elevated heart rate
- Trouble breathing
- Loss of consciousness
- Pinpoint pupils
- Chest pain
- Rise in body temperature
Lacing Heroin With Fentanyl
Heroin and fentanyl are both synthetic opioids, which means they’re both depressants. When both of these are taken simultaneously, the risk of overdose is high. The effects of opioids aren’t always felt immediately. Someone’s height, weight, and stomach contents all play a role in how quickly it “kicks in”. This can cause some people to take more because they don’t believe it’s working. The combination of heroin and fentanyl builds up in the system and can overwhelm the body and its primary organs. Some symptoms to look out for include:
- Somnolence (trouble staying awake)
- Slurred speech
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Limp body
- Uncontrolled vomiting
What to Do if Someone Has a Reaction to Drugs Laced With Fentanyl
If you believe that you or someone you’re with is overdosing on any drug, do not hesitate to call for help. You will not get in trouble. The police cannot prosecute you for possession of illegal substances if you are actively seeking help for yourself or a friend. You can call 911 or poison control – both have the power to dispatch an ambulance if needed.
While you’re on the phone or in the presence of first responders, the more you tell them, the more they can help. Age, weight, the dosage of the substance taken, whether or not any other substances are in the person’s system, what time they took the drug, and the side effects they’re experiencing are all information that can be used to save someone’s life. An overdose is reversible, especially if it’s caught in time.
Getting Treatment For Substance Use Disorder And Fentanyl
If you’re finding yourself in a position where you’re worried about your fentanyl use – congratulations on being here. Reading about your options is a great first step. At ReVIDA® Recovery, our mission is to help people reclaim their lives from substance use disorder.
There are a variety of options available for those seeking recovery. At ReVIDA® Recovery, we believe that the safest and smartest route to recovery is through treatment. Our goal is to help the people in our community reclaim their lives from opioid addiction, and we start with evidence-based, high-quality treatment options:
Structured Outpatient Treatment
The ReVIDA® Outpatient program is a flexible and structured treatment. Our evidence-based treatment includes individual and group therapy, education classes, and 12-step meetings. We also connect you to resources and community partners who have joined together to assist your extended support team during treatment.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
Choosing a MAT program means choosing support. We’ll work to decrease any withdrawal symptoms and make your recovery as comfortable as possible. Our MAT program is supervised by physicians, licensed therapists, certified counselors, care coordinators, and peer recovery specialists to oversee your progress and health – every step of the way.
Suboxone® (buprenorphine) Treatment
Our medically supervised Suboxone® Program helps quiet the mind and prepare your body for treatment and support for long-term opiate addiction. Suboxone® (buprenorphine) is one of the most effective and proven therapies to reduce the cravings for opioids. Unlike Methadone, this treatment can be prescribed in a doctor’s office and permits our staff to prepare you for the more important work of one-on-one therapy and strategies for daily recovery.
Counseling and Group Therapy
We believe that providing individual and group therapy is a critical component of assisting patients as they navigate the road to long-term recovery. From the moment you begin treatment, you will discover that we offer a safe and supportive place to talk and learn the necessary skills that will support long-term recovery and a healthy lifestyle. Our behavioral healthcare team is composed of licensed therapists, certified counselors, care coordinators, and peer recovery specialists who are ready to guide and support you all along the way.
At ReVIDA® Recovery, we provide evidence-based individual treatment programs for those seeking recovery from fentanyl or substance use disorders. We want you to recover in a safe environment where we can monitor your withdrawal symptoms and guide you on your recovery journey. For questions about our programs or to schedule a consultation, call us at (423) 631-0432 today!
FAQs About Drugs Laced With Fentanyl
When did they start lacing drugs with fentanyl?
Dealers have been mixing fentanyl with other drugs since the late 1970s.
What are the side effects of fentanyl laced pills?
Side effects of fentanyl-laced pills vary depending on the substances in them. They range from loss of consciousness to pinpoint pupils to nausea and vomiting.
Has fentanyl been found in vitamins?
Lately, we’ve seen fentanyl in forms that resemble multivitamins for children, but there is no evidence to suggest you’ll find fentanyl in prescription medications or anything you buy over the counter.