If taken at face value recent Connecticut reports about fentanyl-tainted cannabis highlight the risks inherent in the drug prohibition black market. The retail-level sellers who supply illegal drugs may not be able to tell the difference between what the consumer is buying and what it contains. But even in a market where such uncertainty prevails, opioid overdoses among drug users who claim to have consumed nothing but cannabis—like earlier, better documented reports of fentanyl mixed with cocaine—raise puzzling questions about what is going on.
It seems that one thing is certain: the official warnings issued by these reports are far more alarming and concerning than the evidence.
In the past decade, heroin-related deaths have reached new heights due to illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Fentanyl has a potency of roughly 50 percent that of heroin and is unpredictable, making it more difficult to make lethal mistakes.
Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the United States experienced a record-breaking number of drug-related death last year, with more than 93,000. The opioids were involved in three quarters. The opioid-related death rate for opioid-related causes was 83 per cent, up from 14% in 2010.
Heroin and fentanyl have similar psychoactive properties. It makes perfect sense that drug dealers would mix heroin and fentanyl to enhance or replace heroin. Fentanyl costs less to make, is easier to smuggle, and it’s cheaper than heroin. The idea that dealers might mix marijuana with fentanyl is not plausible. It was a scary idea that existed until now.
The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH), however, announced last week that 39 cases of opioid overdoses had been reported to it since July. However, DPH said the patients “had not used opioids and were unable to get naloxone for their recovery” and “denied ever using opioids and only claimed they smoked cannabis.” These cases can be explained by patients who falsely deny opioid use. This stigma is stronger than marijuana consumption. The agency did report that the lab testing of one marijuana sample from those patients revealed that it had detected fentanyl.
Manisha Juthani, DPH commissioner said “This is the very first laboratory-confirmed marijuana case with fentanyl from Connecticut” Her department has “strongly advised all those working in public health and harm reduction to inform clients about potential dangers associated with marijuana with fentanyl.” The department advises that clients should be able to obtain proper precautions for marijuana use. It also “recommends that anyone who is using substances obtained illicitly…know the signs of an opioid overdose, do not use alone, and have naloxone on hand.”
Given their limited evidence, these warnings are overblown. Juthani stated that the danger was so severe that cannabis customers should have naloxone in their possession. If this were true, you might expect more suspect cases to be reported in states with over half a million users. Even if the lab result is accurate, there are still questions about how the fentanyl got into the cannabis sample. Is it possible that the dealer added the fentanyl intentionally? If so, why? The dealer or his customer could have accidentally contaminated the sample. Contrary to his claims, was the patient aware that he had deliberately given his pot with fentanyl.
ForbesChris Roberts asked Robert Lawlor those same questions. Robert Lawlor works as an intelligence officer for New England High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which is an interagency team that focuses on drug enforcement. Lawlor replied, “We have many of the same questions.” Fentanyl is not a good business idea. This is why it’s happening. Why is it being put in cannabis? These are just a few of the many questions still unanswered.
HIDTA is, however, a significant exception. Not It is important to warn marijuana users that they must be alert for black-market cannabis containing fentanyl. “Marijuana [mixed with]Lawlor stated that fentanyl is an urban legend since a few years. It is crucial for public safety, public health and public safety to determine if it is real.
The evidence for fentanyl-laced cocaine is significantly stronger. The Drug Enforcement Administration’s February 2018 bulletin stated that testing of Florida cocaine samples “revealed the widespread use of fentanyl in the drug.” According to the Bulletin, fentanyl (or its analogs) was detected in more than 180 samples of cocaine. However, this bulletin did not specify how many were tested.
The DEA stated that widespread seizures of contaminated cocaine show that drug dealers often mix fentanyl with fentanyl related substances. This may be done to boost the drug’s profit (or base) in some cases. Drug dealers may mix fentanyl with cocaine in other instances. They use the same equipment to make different types of drugs such as heroin. However, adulteration can occur without users being aware, and could lead to addiction or overdose. Due to their lack of tolerance or experience, people who only use cocaine occasionaly are very at high risk of an overdose.
It seems that the levels of fentanyl found in cocaine vary greatly across the nation. For example, the DEA describes such combinations as being common in Florida. However, another DEA bulletin, published in the same month, stated that fentanyl was found in “less than one per cent of total cocaine exhibits analyzed in Pennsylvania from 2015 to 2017. NPR’s national reports based upon DEA data show that the percentage of seized cocaine samples tested positive for fentanyl increased from 1 percent to 3.3 percent between 2016 and 2020.
The DEA’s Florida bulletin stated that it was not known to what degree dealers were adding fentanyl cocaine to their products and whether consumers are aware of what they are purchasing. This is not surprising as Americans have been known to consume stimulants along with opioids for a long time. These combinations play a greater role in drug-related death.
The CDC reported that drug-related death from cocaine increased nearly fourfold between 2010 and 2019. It rose from approximately 4,200 to around 15,900. According to a CDC database the percentage of cases in which fentanyl was involved or an analog rose from 4 to 6 percent during the same time period. Although it does not mean that cocaine or fentanyl have been detected, this is consistent with concerns that these combinations are becoming more frequent.
Florida bulletin of the DEA concluded that an increase in cocaine-related deaths was largely due “to growing use cocaine-opioid mixtures and specifically a cocaine/fentanyl combination.” In its 2020 report, the agency stated that it had no additional information. Assessment of the National Drug ThreatAccording to the report, it is hard to determine if overdose deaths spikes are due to primarily [attributable]To intentional use of drug combinations that are true, and ingestion of SOOTM [synthetic opioids other than methadone]It contains only small quantities of cocaine, ingestion of cocaine with minimal elements of SOOTM or both cocaine and SOOTM at the same time.
Although drug-related death from combination of methamphetamines and fentanyl is on the rise as well, it’s not as significant as an increase in cocaine/fentanyl mixtures. The CDC reported that deaths involving methamphetamine and “psychostimulants of abuse potential” increased nearly ninefold between 2010-2019. They rose from approximately 1,900 to 16,200. The percentage of cases involving fentanyl and its analogues increased from 2 to 11 percent during the same time period.
It is unclear how many deaths resulted from mixtures of drugs, as with cocaine. The DEA published a public safety alert in September about fake prescription pills containing fentanyl or methamphetamine. The pills look similar to common prescription medications like Percocet and Vicodin or Xanax. The DEA advised that pills often contain dangerous amounts of fentanyl. It added that “methamphetamine” is being increasingly pressed into fake pills.
The DEA has not stated how common it is for the same pill contain fentanyl, methamphetamine or both. Assessment of the National Drug Threat The CDC did not mention deaths from both drugs. The CDC states that fentanyl can be found in “commonly combined with drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.” It also says: “Fentanyl-laced drug are extremely dangerous and many people might not know that they contain fentanyl.
Connecticut is not able to provide any evidence supporting its warnings against fentanyl-tainted pot. The presence of fentanyl in cocaine has been better documented. However, this drug isn’t very prevalent in many markets and isn’t known how often people are taking the drugs unknowingly. This hazard is not a matter of opinion. All legal drugs from hydrocodone and whiskey have known active ingredients, in predetermined doses.
The DEA is warning people about the dangers of “pills bought outside of a licensed pharmacist” and “legitimate prescription medications prescribed and dispensed to patients by doctors and pharmacists.” This is in response to the potentially life-threatening policies that it implements. No coincidence, the DEA along with other agencies reduced prescription pain pill supply. This led to an increase in deaths related to opioids. This crackdown also deprived patients who were legally prescribed pain medication and drove people to use “potentially deadly” black market products with unknown origins and compositions. Fentanyl contamination, it is clear that patients and physicians don’t need to be concerned about when using pharmaceutical-grade cocaine.
Connecticut marijuana consumers who are worried about the state’s exaggerated warnings regarding black-market cannabis will soon have legal options. Connecticut has become the 18th legal state to allow recreational use. Licenced sales of cannabis are anticipated to start in May. However, consumers of any other drug will have to deal with the black market, where quality and purity can be unpredictable and sometimes deadly.