Marijuana is increasingly being laced with various substances, some of which are toxic.
Users are seeking out increasingly potent marijuana supplies, and dealers have found ways to meet this demand. Marijuana growers have been cross-breeding strains of marijuana for decades to increase its potency.
One study from Biological Psychiatry found that marijuana has become more potent in the past two decades. Testing done over an extended period showed that the ratio of THC to CBD increased from 14 times in 1995 to about 80 times by 2014.
Some dealers still seek out additional ways to increase the potency of their products and create different results for their customers. Some might lace weed to create a more addictive substance that encourages their customers to pay more for the product and keep buying their supplies.
Other dealers may lace other plant material with chemicals or other substances in an attempt to manufacture a counterfeit product for profit. This is also happening in the markets for synthetic marijuana products known as K2 or Spice.
Although some substances are introduced into marijuana supplies by dealers to increase weight for more profit, many are adding substances to their supplies to create stronger highs.
Marijuana could be laced with a variety of substances, including:
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The danger of laced marijuana depends on the substance that is used to lace the product and the amount consumed. If users are unaware that the marijuana they are smoking has been laced, they could accidentally overdose.
Furthermore, highly addictive substances such as fentanyl can cause death in very small amounts; thus, any product that has fentanyl added to it becomes incredibly dangerous. Other substances that are more addictive than marijuana can increase the chances for dependency and addiction, particularly cocaine and heroin, which are highly addictive.
The risks of laced marijuana are highly variable, depending on the substance used, and effects vary according to individuals. For example, a joint laced with heroin may not cause a significant reaction in a user who regularly takes opiates and has developed a tolerance for them. Yet the same heroin-laced joint could cause an overdose in a person who has never taken opiates before.
Laced marijuana is rare, but it is still a potentially serious problem, especially for unsuspecting consumers. Marijuana may also contain heavy metals, fungus, and pesticides that originate from the growing operations.
It is very difficult to tell if marijuana has been cut with another substance just by looking at it. Methods to lace marijuana may involve spraying it with a chemical, which then dries and is not detectable by the naked eye.
You may be able to detect potential additives if you notice that the color or smell is not normal. Because marijuana comes in slightly different colors because of the different strains available, this can be an unreliable method of determining purity.
There are a few different ways you can test for contaminants or additives in your marijuana.
Some testing kits might be able to detect impurities or dangerous additives in a marijuana sample, but even these tests may not pick up on all the possible additives. Drug testing kits will tell you on the label exactly what substances they test for. If you have specific concerns about a batch of marijuana, you can use these kits to check for potential additives.
If you are a regular marijuana user who notes an obvious difference in the color or smell of the marijuana you have purchased, you might have a laced or contaminated product. If you smoke marijuana and notice significant pain in your chest, this could be an indication that glass or laundry detergent has been added to the supply. Seek emergency medical attention.
If you suspect your marijuana has laundry detergent in it, you can put a portion of the marijuana in a glass of water and shake it, which will cause suds to appear if it has detergent in it. Some people suggest trying to scratch a CD or other delicate surface with the marijuana to see if glass has been added. Regular marijuana will not cause a scratch, but a product laced with glass will.
If you take a small piece of marijuana and roll it or squeeze it in your fingers, you will note small, white, sticky crystals that stick to your fingers. These are a natural part of the marijuana bud known as trichomes, but weed laced with other powdery substances such as cocaine will have larger heaps of dust falling off the plant.
If you suspect that your weed has chemical or fuel additives, you can hold a small piece over a flame to see if it bursts into flames, pops, or sparks. This will happen if your marijuana has been soaked in an adulterant or another flammable chemical.
If you suspect you may have consumed cut marijuana, seek medical attention.
You don’t know what you have ingested, and you could be at risk for a dangerous overdose or even death.
If you have distressful symptoms after smoking weed, such as chest pains, difficulty breathing, hallucinations, excessive sedation, or extreme stimulation and increased heart rate, don’t delay in seeking help.
“On its own, marijuana doesn’t cause overdoses, but when unknown additives are present, the risk for distressful or dangerous symptoms increases.
If toxic substances are used to cut the drug, laced marijuana can lead to death.”
Don’t take risks with your safety. If you have tested your marijuana supply and suspect it has been contaminated, the best course of action is to discard the supply.
(April 2016). Changes in Cannabis Potency over the Last Two Decades (1995-2014)- Analysis of Current Data in the United States. Biological Psychiatry from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4987131/
(June 2016). Fentanyl. National Institute on Drug Abuse from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/fentanyl
(June 2018). Marijuana. National Institute on Drug Abuse from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-marijuana
March 2015). Modern Marijuana Is Often Laced with Heavy Metals and Fungus. Smithsonian Magazine from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/modern-marijuana-more-potent-often-laced-heavy-metals-and-fungus-180954696/
(October 2013). Marijuana. Center for Substance Abuse Research from http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/marijuana.asp
PCP Laced Marijuana: Creating Psychosis and Psychiatric Commitment. Citizens Commission on Human Rights Florida from https://www.cchrflorida.org/pcp-laced-marijuana-creating-psychosis-and-psychiatric-commitment/