Like all drugs sold on the street, speed may be cut with other substances, such as caffeine, ephedrine, or even fentanyl.
Ephedrine: Harvard Health says ephedrine is derived from a traditional Chinese herb called ma-huang. Its properties are similar to speed, and it became popular with athletes in the United States because it was said to improve stamina and improve alertness. There are as many as 800 negative side effects associated with ephedrine, including sudden fatalities, seizures, and heart attacks.
Caffeine: A 2013 article published in the Smithsonian Magazine reports that up to 80 percent of Americans drink caffeine in some form every day. Despite how socially accepted it is, caffeine is still a drug, and people who quit using it often experience withdrawal.
Fentanyl: This ubiquitous drug is now used to cut all kinds of substances. Dealers who sell drugs that need to be manufactured in large batches may be adding fentanyl to whatever they sell because it makes their supply stronger. Law enforcement officials believe that drug dealers who sell multiple substances may be cross-contaminating them when preparing smaller packets to sell. Regardless, anyone who buys illicit drugs that come in a tablet form is at risk of finding fentanyl in the mix.
Even though data for speed has not been collected, anyone who uses illicit substances should know that contamination with fentanyl is always a possibility. On June 2017, Now Toronto published an article that showed fentanyl has shown up in drugs as diverse as ecstasy and cocaine.
Speed is sometimes the contaminant people want to avoid, however. A February 2016 article on News Australia says that drug tests performed outside of raves and other parties showed that some people paid for ecstasy but got speed instead.
Speed is dangerous enough in its purest form. It can cause the following:
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As it is, people who take speed may feel they do not need to sleep. However, speed laced with other substances, even one as seemingly innocent as caffeine, produces negative side effects which can become worse.
Ephedrine, a substance that can commonly be found in speed, is known for its harmful effects. Because it is a stimulant, ephedrine may strengthen a dose of speed. This means a person could experience:
Harvard Health says that ephedra has been banned in the Olympics, the military, the National Football League, and college athletics because of its negative outcomes. Speed laced with ephedrine only increases the risk of experiencing undesirable side effects.
Speed is sold illicitly as a powder that may be white, brown, or even grey and pink, per ADF. It is bitter to the taste and usually has a particular odor.
It is sometimes found as a crystal. In this form, speed could be any color or shape.
Speed is malleable and should feel a lot like modeling compounds or even silly putty. Even though it is not easy to know if something is pure just by looking at it, you can examine the colors of speed in its powder form and make sure there are no abnormalities.
It may help to move it around and make sure it feels easy to manipulate. A weak odor or bad taste could help individuals determine if the speed they are about to take is cut with other substances. The only way to prevent taking contaminated speed is to abstain, but some people will take the risk anyway.
People who choose to take speed regardless of its dangers would do well to test it for purity. Tonic reports that encouraging people to test their drugs is much more effective than expecting them to abstain from use altogether.
Some testing methods include:
Liquid/gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. Unfortunately, this is only available in professional laboratories. This requires sending a sample of a drug to a lab and then separating its different components to know what is actually in them. If people choose to, Tonic reports that some labs accept drug samples through the mail, but this method takes between 4 and 14 days and has an added cost. The process is legal because labs only need a small sample of the drug to be tested, and the labs destroy the sample after testing.
Liquid reagent tests. These kits can cost anywhere from $20 to $50 online. They allow anyone to test their drugs from the comfort of their own home. People can buy reagent tests for specific types of drugs, such as opioids, MDMA, and others.
The main disadvantage is that these kits only test for items in which you have questions. Liquid tests turn a different color to reflect what a drug might be, but they do not indicate amounts of different mixes.
Fentanyl test strips. These strips specifically test for traces of fentanyl. These do not test for amounts, but they can provide peace of mind for people who want to avoid this substance. If a batch of speed tests positive for fentanyl throw the entire batch out. Fentanyl can result in deadly overdose in very small doses.
Thin layer chromatography (TLC). This test can also be done at home, but the lab kit is more expensive. TLC can test for certain substances and estimate how much of these are present in a drug.
As an illegal drug, no use of speed is safe. Even if speed has not been cut with other drugs, using it is dangerous.
Amphetamines. Alcohol and Drug Foundation. from https://adf.org.au/drug-facts/amphetamines/
(March 2014) The Terrifying Substances People Put in Cocaine. VICE. from https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/vdpb4y/the-cash-is-in-the-cut
(January 2018) Amphetamines. Psychology Today. from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/amphetamines
(August 2018) Speed. Friday Monday. from https://www.fridaymonday.org.uk/drug-types/speed/
(June 2017) Why is deadly fentanyl now showing up in street drugs like MDMA and cocaine? NOW Toronto. from https://nowtoronto.com/news/why-is-fentanyl-showing-up-in-street-drugs-/
(February 2016) Why deaths won’t stop the party: Drug test kits gain popularity as festival overdoses soar. News AU. from https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/health-problems/why-deaths-wont-stop-the-party-drug-test-kits-gain-popularity-as-festival-overdoses-soar/news-story/a25d6eaf98c2781c327de51bf55aa534
(January 2017) The dangers of the herb ephedra. Harvard Health. from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-dangers-of-the-herb-ephedra
(August 2013) This is How Your Brain Becomes Addicted to Caffeine. Smithsonian Magazine. from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/this-is-how-your-brain-becomes-addicted-to-caffeine-26861037/
(November 2017) Dehydration Avoidance: Proper Hydration. Cleveland Clinic. from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/9013-dehydration-avoidance-proper-hydration
(January 2019) We Looked Into the Kits You Can Use to Test Your Drugs. Tonics. from https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/43zybn/we-looked-into-the-kits-you-can-use-to-test-your-drugs