Fentanyl-Laced Cocaine: How Opioids are Killing People with Cocaine Addiction
Deaths from opioid-induced overdoses have substantially risen over the last two decades. From 1999 to 2017, more than 702,000 people have lost their lives from an opioid overdose. In 2017 alone, opioid deaths made up more than 40,000 of the 70,237 total drug-related deaths. And now, individuals with cocaine addiction are finding opioids entering the cocaine supply chain.
The Centers for Disease Control and other governmental bodies understand the pressing need for greater awareness and rehabilitation resources. However, there is another problem facing drug users: fentanyl. The synthetic opioid can cause an overdose within minutes with a potency making it 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
Due to its strength, fentanyl is not only highly addictive but extremely dangerous. Some drug users seek it out purposefully to mix with a stimulant like cocaine. Taking the two together is an act known as "speedballing." Others, on the other hand, may accidentally take fentanyl as many illicit dealers are now lacing their supplies with the drug.
Why Is Fentanyl-Laced Cocaine on the Rise?
No one knows for sure why fentanyl has suddenly been introduced to the cocaine supply, but there are a few theories. There has been an increasing demand for both methamphetamines, like cocaine, and opioids.
According to a survey by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2.4 million Americans started using opioids, methamphetamines, or other prescription stimulants such as Adderall in 2016. Overall, the total number of illicit prescription users was 13.6 million in the same year.
However, most cocaine users don't want anything to do with fentanyl. This makes one idea that dealers are lacing their supplies to appease the majority fall apart. Instead, it seems more plausible that fentanyl is being marketed to cash upon the opioid epidemic. Given its strength, a person who starts taking cocaine laced with fentanyl can quickly develop an opioid use disorder. Unfortunately, if cocaine users are already struggling with a cocaine addiction, the risk of overdose increases exponentially.
Ultimately, no one knows precisely why fentanyl is being added to cocaine. This can be notably perplexing given the immense fear the potent opioid caused in many of its users. Fentanyl is appearing in just as many overdoses with cocaine as it once did with morphine or heroin. Deaths from fentanyl-laced cocaine are now known as the "third wave" of the American opioid epidemic.
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What Happens Next?
Law enforcement officials know fentanyl is a deadly problem being pushed on their streets. “Death rates involving cocaine increased by approximately one-third during 2016-2017” according to researchers as the Universal of California in Fresno. There is growing concern users may begin taking other drugs to avoid fentanyl-laced cocaine.
Some cocaine users may be switching to heroin to stay away from tainted drugs. On the other hand, many will continue consuming cocaine on purpose because it is cheaper than heroin and other opioids. The medical community is taking the same preventative measures for stimulant users once administered to heroin addicts. Take smaller doses, keep Naloxone on-hand, and avoid using alone.
There is some good news, however. Traci Green, an epidemiologist at Boston Medical Center, has found “the tools that are going to be most effective are the ones we already have." With the knowledge and skills needed to help begin educating users and, hopefully, expanding drug treatment access in America, more people can start to understand the tremendous risk of fentanyl use, intentional or otherwise, and get help before it's too late.
Recovering from any drug or alcohol-related abuse requires the support of trained medical and clinical professionals. For individuals struggling with the ever-tightening grip of opioid and cocaine addiction, it is crucial to find a trusted treatment facility. Springboard Recovery can identify the type of addictions requiring treatment and the right methods that will yield the highest chance of recovery success.
If you or a loved one is suffering from substance abuse, please contact your nearest medical facility or contact a SpringBoard Recovery professional today.