The thought that there is a substance on the market that can make heroin more deadly, is a startling thought, and an even more frightening reality. Heroin is one of the most addictive and dangerous illicit drugs accessible, which is why the trend of mixing it with prescription fentanyl, a narcotic pain reliever that is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin, and 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine, has parents, doctors, and police extremely concerned. Two milligrams or less of fentanyl alone, a dose the size of a few grains of salt, can be deadly. Typically used as an anesthesia drug, fentanyl, like heroin, can be extremely addictive and dangerous if abused. Combined with heroin, the two are ending more and more lives every day.
Why Combine Heroin and Fentanyl?
For those opiate addicts constantly seeking an even greater high, the combination of fentanyl and heroin provides an amplified experience. Substance abusers often build a type of tolerance for opiates after prolonged use, which requires them to consume either a greater quantity, or a more potent substance, to feel the same high. For addicts whose judgment and/or tolerance has been impaired by their craving for their drug of choice, they are often unable to see the obvious risk of combining two potent and dangerous drugs, and too often their first experience with the mixture results in a severe overdose, or even death. From late 2013 through 2014, there were at least 700 fentanyl-related deaths reported in the United States.
Why are Dealers Combining Heroin and Fentanyl?
For some heroin users, the abuse of fentanyl-laced heroin is not intentional. They buy what they believe to be the same product they have used in the past, and it’s not until after a dangerous, unintended reaction that they realize the heroin they purchased has been laced with fentanyl. The mixing of the two deadly drugs has become an increasingly popular strategy used by regional drug dealers trying to make the heroin they sell more potent after it has been diluted by dealers further up the distribution chain.
Why an Increase in the Combination Now?
Prescription painkiller addiction is on the rise, as is the buying and selling of prescription painkillers on the street. Drug dealers are taking advantage of the potency and popularity of fentanyl by combining it, or an illicit manufactured version, with heroin and selling it as a combination that can create the ultimate high. There is also increased fentanyl distribution coming from outside our boarders. Federal drug agents have reported that Mexican drug cartels are increasing their production of a variant of fentanyl and smuggling it into the United States.
What is Being Done to Prevent Additional Abuse?
In March, 2015 the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a nationwide alert in response to the rapidly increasing number of deaths the combination of heroin and fentanyl has caused, especially in major cities across the United States. The DEA has also added manufactured illicit acetyl fentanyl to its list of banned substances. In addition, more education and awareness efforts are being made at the national and local levels to warn drug users about the dangers of combining heroin and fentanyl, and to help them to get the treatment they need to get clean.
If you or someone you love is abusing any variety of opiates, know that addiction treatment is available, accessible, and effective. For more information on substance abuse recovery, or opiate overdose prevention training, contact the Painkillers Kill of Western New York HOPE line at (855) 969-HOPE or contact Horizon Health Services today at (716) 831-1800.