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Recognizing Fentanyl-Laced Cocaine (How to Stay Safe)

Cocaine is almost always mixed with cutting agents when it is sold on the illicit drug markets. Drug dealers can make more money by diluting their products with cutting agents that increase the volume of product they have for sale.

Cocaine is often cut with commonly found substances that are cheap and can be purchased legally. Some of these agents include baking soda, laundry detergent, flour, baby formula, or any other white powdery substance that can be easily blended with powder cocaine.

More recently, health and safety officials have noted an increase in the trend of cutting cocaine with fentanyl, a potentially deadly combination. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 37 percent of overdose deaths in 2016 involved the combination of cocaine and fentanyl, a rise from 11 percent in 2015.

Why Is Cocaine Being Laced With Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is highly potent and highly addictive.

Fentanyl’s introduction into illicit drug markets has been partially responsible for the spike in overdose deaths in the United States over the past several years. More than 130 people die every day in the U.S. from opioid-related overdoses.

The stimulant properties of cocaine and the sedative properties of fentanyl combine for an effect known as “speedballing.” This can constrict the arteries and cause hyperkinetic cardiac arrhythmia, according to researchers.

Fentanyl is an increasingly common cutting agent because illegal suppliers can make it cheaply or import it from overseas markets. This is one way that drug dealers can increase their cocaine supplies while still providing the high users expect.

Fentanyl’s highly addictive properties can cause consumers to quickly become addicted, sending them back to the same dealers for more of the product. This further increases profits for dealers by increasing their local market share.

How Can You Recognize Fentanyl-Laced Cocaine?

The trend of lacing cocaine with fentanyl has many people worried about the safety of their supplies. Fentanyl can be deadly even in small doses, especially for people who have not developed a tolerance to opioids.

Accidental overdose is a fear for many people who use cocaine and other drugs. While they may not be prepared to stop using, they still want to know if their supplies have been laced with deadly substances.

Drug testing kits let consumers test the illicit products they have purchased for purity and dangerous substances. Fentanyl testing strips (FTS) help people identify potentially dangerous substances in their drug supplies.

Can You Spot It by Looking at It?

No. Fentanyl is almost impossible to spot by just looking at the substance or a particular batch of cocaine. It is often manufactured into a white powder form that closely mimics cocaine or heroin.

When cocaine is laced or cut with fentanyl, the substances blend easily and cannot be reliably detected visually. Cocaine may also be cut with other agents before fentanyl has been added, so any batch of cocaine could have unknown quantities of multiple different substances in the product.

Dealers rely on cutting agents that can be reliably blended into their supplies without being easily detected. This is why they choose substances that have similar color and texture as well as similar boiling points and smoking points. This ensures that their products can be consumed as intended by the people who purchase them. It also allows them to introduce products into their markets with varying degrees of quality and potency.

Can Drug Testing Kits Detect Fentanyl-Laced Cocaine?

Sometimes. Drug testing kits typically come with specific markers for the agents they test for.  Any testing kit you purchase should clearly state what drugs the kit can detect and whether they can provide information on the purity levels of the substances tested.

Rapid fentanyl test strips (FTS) can be used to determine the presence of fentanyl in illicit drug supplies. Researchers have found that people using FTS found them to be easy to use and beneficial. FTS may be an essential resource for people who regularly consume drugs. They can be a harm reduction technique that helps more people stay away from dangerous drug combinations.

What Are the Dangers of Not Testing for Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a deadly drug that can cause you to stop breathing and ultimately die. The drug is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and it can be absorbed through the skin just by touching it.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that in the last half of 2016, in 10 states, more than half of the people who died from opioid overdoses had fentanyl as a contributing factor in their deaths.

There is no safe level of fentanyl that can be consumed outside of a doctor’s supervision for specific medical purposes. The first dose of fentanyl can cause an overdose for some people. People may not be acclimated to taking opioids, so an overdose can happen incredibly quickly.

Fentanyl’s addictive properties increase the risk as well. Using cocaine laced with fentanyl increases the potential for opioid addiction. While cocaine is highly addictive in itself, fentanyl is even more addictive. Users can rapidly get caught in the cycle of dependency and addiction.

Testing cocaine products for the presence of fentanyl can help to ensure that you do not take a substance you do not intend to consume.

What Are Other Ways to Stay Safe?

The best way to avoid taking drugs that are laced or cut with dangerous substances, such as fentanyl, is to seek treatment for addiction and break free from the dangerous cycle of drug abuse.

Highly addictive drugs will always come with inherent risks, including sudden death, so there is no real way to stay safe except to get yourself on the path of recovery. Even occasional recreational use puts you at risk of a fatal overdose because of the unpredictability of the various substances used to cut cocaine.

If you choose to use cocaine anyway, use fentanyl testing strips or another testing medium to ensure that your drug supplies are not laced with fentanyl.