Drugs are Getting More & More Potent

It is true that drugs are getting more and more potent these days. Unlike in the past, drug dealers are now selling stronger doses of drugs to attract consumers and also outshine the competition.

According to researchers, the increasing potency of drugs is a sign of an ever-growing recreational drug marketplace, fueled by the rising popularity of stronger drugs. It could also indicate that the drugs are widely available to consumers, forcing dealers to offer punchier products.

Competition in sectors like food or fuel is great for the end-user. It brings about better products and services, helping the consumer get the best of what the market has to offer. But when it comes to drugs, competition can be deadly. It can lead to drug overdoses and overdose deaths.

That’s because dealers do anything to make their drugs stronger and more appealing to end-users. For example, they’ll cut drugs like heroin with other highly potent drugs like fentanyl to spike effects, etc. Sadly, this can cause severe side effects, and in worse cases, overdose deaths. 

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The potency and purity of drugs in the market have reached new levels. It’s an alarming trend especially since the country is dealing with an opioid epidemic that has claimed tens of thousands of lives. At the moment, drug poisoning deaths are the number one cause of injury death in the US, exceeding guns, homicide, suicide, and car crashes.

Organizations like the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction and the US Drug Enforcement Agency produce annual reports on drug testing and thorough evaluation of substances they encounter. They also list out drug pricing details, and surprisingly, cheaper substances are often more potent than expensive ones. That’s because the cheaper ones are inexpensively mass-produced or readily available to meet the demand.

In the US, the average purity of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana increased by 11, 60, and 160% respectively between 1990 and 2007, while their prices, adjusted for purity and inflation fell about 80%. With that in mind, let’s now look at specific drugs and how potent they’ve become.

Marijuana

Today’s marijuana is three times stronger than it was about 25 years ago. This is according to a study published by the National Library of Medicine. The THC level found in marijuana went from 4% to 12% since 1994, with some strains having a concentration rate of 15-25%.

The growing popularity of marijuana has seen the development of more potent products. Traditionally, the plant was mainly consumed through edible products or smoking. But today, people make extracts and concentrates which are more potent due to larger resin volumes. Resins, which are isolated active compounds of weed, have 3-5 times for THC than a marijuana plant.

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Meth

About a decade ago, the average gram of meth in the US was 39% pure. Today, the Mexican manufacturers produce and sell it in a near-pure state. According to the 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment by the DEA, the purity in 2016 was around 93-96%. Meth is smuggled alongside fentanyl and carfentanil, a very powerful derivative that’s often used as an elephant tranquilizer and can kill a person with one or two specks.

Fentanyl

Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, is a prescription drug that’s also made and used illegally. It’s mostly used after surgery to help patients with pain. But the Mexican cartels and Chinese cartels manufacture and smuggle the drug into the US.

And since it’s easier and cheaper to produce than heroin, many drug dealers make pills or cut them into other drugs and deceptively market them as oxycodone pills or heroin. According to the DEA, fentanyl seized on the US-Mexico border is about 4-6% pure. But the smaller quantities from China have a purity of 90% or even higher.

Heroin

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Heroin is highly addictive and many people find it hard to stop using it, even just after using it once or twice. Many constantly crave their next dose. If a heroin addict quits cold turkey or is unable to find another dose, he or she may develop withdrawal symptoms like sleeplessness, feelings of panic, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and sweats or chills.

Availability is partly to blame for heroin addiction. Heroin and prescription opioids have the same chemical properties and psychological effects. It’s why many people transition from abuse of prescription medications to heroin. Most of them cite heroin as cheaper, more accessible, and offers a better high. Notably, heroin’s street price has been much lower in the last few years.

As mentioned earlier, drug dealers and distributors are now cutting heroin with fentanyl to increase their supply and make it even more potent. Fentanyl is man-made; so it’s cheaper and easier to obtain than plant-based drugs like cocaine and heroin. Fentanyl-laced heroin is very potent and potentially fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin. That’s why the risk of fatal overdose is much higher with such drugs.

Cocaine

Like heroin, cocaine is also often mixed with the powerful opioid fentanyl. Fentanyl turns cocaine into a much bigger killer than the drug of the past. In the 70s, drug dealers and users mixed heroin with cocaine. This mix is famously known and speedball. Speedball creates an intense euphoric rush that’s known as push-pull. But fentanyl has made it much worse. It makes people addicted to a crisis.

And the situation seems to worsen with the increased supply. A federal survey revealed that about 2 million Americans used cocaine regularly in 2018. In 2011, there were 1.4 million users. The production in Colombia has widened the stimulant market and reduced prices.

Sadly these people who produce cocaine aren’t chemists and don’t always know what they’re doing. But drug users trust their suppliers. Most of them don’t carry naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal drug because they assume they won’t need it.

Seeking addiction treatment

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Substance abuse is dangerous as is. Alcohol abuse can cause liver damage, and smoking lung cancer. We also know that heroin and cocaine abuse cause adverse effects like heart disease, seizures, lung and liver damage, etc. When people use more potent drugs, the risk is even higher.

Since most of them aren’t aware of the potency, they may use the same dose of a drug, but end up with adverse effects, or even death.

Drug overdoses are fatal. Luckily, many people who have overdoses can be saved if they get immediate care. Usually, death happens due to respiratory failure. Overdose is a scary word, especially since most associate it with death. But these two aren’t always a connected.

A person can still lead a healthy life after an overdose, but only if they learn from it. If you’re wondering where to begin from here, then you’ll be pleased to learn that treatment options exist. Reach out today to get help.

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Texas is Dealing with Even More Fentanyl Problems

Fentanyl is the newest drug to blame for the growing opioid epidemic in Texas. This might sound odd, considering the drug is medically approved and is often prescribed by doctors. However, statistics show deaths involve fentanyl abuse more now than ever before in the state of Texas

The misuse of opioids, including fentanyl, heroin, and prescription opioids, has reached epidemic proportions in the US, leading to over 69,710 overdose deaths in 2020. This is according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Texas, in particular, has experienced an upsurge in overdose deaths, accounting for over 3,000 deaths in 2020. Moreover, trends in opioid abuse in the state point to worsening problems in the coming years.

What is fentanyl?

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Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid used to treat chronic severe pain or severe pain following surgery. It is a Schedule II drug like morphine, only about 50-100 times more potent. When used under doctor’s supervision, fentanyl has legitimate medical use. However, some people use fentanyl at unprescribed levels, exposing themselves to many issues, like tolerance and addiction.

Fentanyl is highly addictive due to its potency. It’s therefore common for those taking prescription fentanyl to experience dependence that’s characterized by withdrawal symptoms upon stopping. Symptoms like sleep issues, muscle and bone pain, cold flashes, vomiting, diarrhea, and severe cravings are uncomfortable and make it hard for people to stop taking fentanyl.

When these people can no longer access prescription fentanyl, they may turn to the streets for options. Unless they enroll in a treatment programthey might not be able to pull themselves out of the hole. Alcohol or drug addictions are best treated by professionals.

On the streets, fentanyl has nicknames like:

Illegal fentanyl is available in different forms, including nasal sprays, powder, pressed pill, eyedroppers, and dropped onto blotter paper. The risks of drug overdose on fentanyl than other opioids are extremely high due to its potency.

In fact, it is now the number one cause of drug overdose deaths. And to worsen the situation, illegal manufacturers often cut fentanyl into other opioids making it even more potent. Examples of these drugs include heroin and cocaine. The lack of quality control on illegal drug production adds another layer of danger.

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Fentanyl epidemic in Texas

Many drugs are sold on the streets of Texas, but none is doing as much damage as fentanyl. According to statistics, the drug has led to a significant increase in opioid overdoses in recent years. In 2020, drug overdose deaths rose to 93,000 and were mostly fueled by the rise of fentanyl.

The scary part is that this year, the Texas Department of Public Safety seized enough fentanyl to kill everyone in California and Texas combined– a 950% rise compared to last year. Most fentanyl enters Texas through the southern border.

Gov. Greg Abbott believes that President Biden’s border policies are the reason behind Texas’s fentanyl problem that begun in 2020 but drastically increased in the first four months of 2021. According to Abbott, people crossing the border come with things that are not visible to the public yet carry deadly danger.

“2mg of Fentanyl has the power to take a life,” read Gov. Abbott’s tweet. “This year, @TxDPS has seized 95lbs of Fentanyl. That’s 21.5M lethal doses. Biden’s deadly border policies are being felt in communities throughout TX and the country. DPS & @TexasGuard are working on getting these drugs off the streets.”

Organizations that traffic fentanyl typically distribute by kilogram. A Kg of fentanyl can kill up to 500,000 people. Sadly, most people who take street drugs have no idea they contain fentanyl. And even those who know they’re taking fentanyl still have no idea that it has a lethal dose.

According to the Center for Disease Control, synthetic opioids are the main culprits behind overdose deaths in Texas and the country at large, rising 38.4% during 12 month period that ends May 2020. In this period, the DEA reports:

Pandemic and fentanyl overdose deaths

The proximity to the border is not the only factor that fuels fentanyl use in Texas. Different sources say there has been evidence of increased fentanyl use during the pandemic. The disruption of the supply chain forced people to turn to drugs they weren’t familiar with. And the stay-at-home measures meant more people were taking drugs in isolation. Other risk factors for fentanyl addiction include:

Where is the fentanyl coming from?

Most of the illegal drugs that come into the US are cultivated in poppy fields in Mexico. They are then distributed by cartels the DEA describes as the greatest drug traffic threat to the US. These cartels smuggle fentanyl and other drugs in passenger and commercial vehicles and through underground tunnels.

Socioeconomic consequences of fentanyl use

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The fentanyl epidemic is having devastating effects on other aspects of public health. It has led to high rates of HIV, hepatitis C, and other illnesses, mostly because of shared syringes. There are also more cases of pregnant mothers passing opioid dependency on their unborn children.

study performed by HHS researchers revealed that cases of neonatal withdrawal symptoms experienced by newborns exposed to opioids while in the womb skyrocketed to over 80% between 2010 and 2017. Not only that. There’s a good chance that the opioid crisis caused an upsurge in the number of children in foster care.

Besides, those struggling with addiction may suffer a job loss or even end up with legal troubles. Addiction is expensive and often puts a strain on family and friends. After all, only those who care about the patient will provide resources to see one through treatment. In some cases, it’s also the close relations that take the most financial heat – like when the person struggling with addiction spends lots of money or they max out the credit in their pursuit to use.

Treating fentanyl addiction

Fentanyl is one of the strongest opioids and can quickly lead to addiction. It is therefore, crucial to know the risk factors and warning signs of fentanyl addiction. Awareness can help prevent overdose and related deaths and encourage one to get help.

Facilities offering treatment for drug addiction exist to help those who end up with addiction regain control of their lives. There are also support groups to help one stay on the path to long-term recovery.