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Fentanyl-Laced Weed: Risks, Dangers and Effects

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Fentanyl-Laced Weed
Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Mohsin Ali, MD

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Mohsin Ali, MD

Dr. Mohsin Ali MD is board certified in Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Trained in Syracuse NY, he has worked in Tennessee for the last sixteen years.

Table of Contents

What is Fentanyl-Laced Weed?

Fentanyl-laced weed refers to cannabis that has been contaminated with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid. The mixture of these substances is often intended to enhance the effects of the marijuana or increase profits by adding weight to the product. The combination of fentanyl and marijuana is particularly dangerous because it significantly amplifies the drug’s potency. Many individuals who unknowingly consume this laced marijuana may not have any tolerance to fentanyl, making the risk of overdose and fatal consequences alarmingly high.

What Does Laced Mean?

The terms “cutting” and “lacing” refer to two distinct methods of modifying substances. Cutting involves diluting a substance with non-active additives such as corn starch, flour, baking soda, or even chalk, primarily to extend the quantity and increase dealer profits. This process generally does not change the drug’s effects but may reduce its potency.

Lacing, on the other hand, involves adding another drug to the substance, with fentanyl being a common choice for illicit drug mixtures. This technique can significantly alter the effects of the original substance, either to increase the dealer’s profit margin or to modify the drug’s impact on the user.

Both practices are deceptive, typically leaving the consumer unaware that the product they’re using has been altered.

Drugs can be mixed or altered at various stages of production and distribution. This might happen during manufacturing or before sale to the end consumer. The process can be straightforward, such as mixing cornstarch into a batch of heroin to increase its volume.

What is Fentanyl?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) identifies fentanyl as a synthetic opioid far more powerful than morphine, with a potency 50 to 100 times greater. While it has legitimate medical applications for pain management, it is also manufactured and distributed illicitly, often appearing on the streets.

Fentanyl’s danger lies not just in its strength but in its tendency to be mixed with or misrepresented as weaker opioids, dramatically increasing overdose risks. As of 2017, fentanyl contributed to 59% of opioid-related fatalities, highlighting its significant impact on the opioid crisis.

What is Weed?

Marijuana, commonly referred to as “weed,” is a blend of the dried flowers from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant, displaying a greenish-gray color. Among the over 500 chemicals found in marijuana, THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the primary psychoactive compound that induces the “high” sensation. Marijuana can be consumed in various ways, including smoking, vaping, brewing in teas, or incorporating into edibles.

THC’s psychotropic effects are attributed to its stimulation of the brain’s pleasure center, prompting the release of dopamine. This affects coordination, mood, cognitive functions, and the perception of time, leading to marijuana’s addictive potential and the risk of dependency among its users.

Can Weed Be Laced With Fentanyl?

The surge in fentanyl overdose fatalities partly arises from its hidden addition to various drugs, frequently unbeknownst to the consumer.

So, can weed be laced with fentanyl? Yes, marijuana has been identified as one of the substances that can be adulterated with fentanyl. While marijuana is legally available in numerous states, the risk of encountering fentanyl-laced marijuana primarily affects those purchasing from unauthorized dealers.

How to Tell if Weed is Laced With Fentanyl

Identifying if your marijuana is laced with fentanyl can be challenging but crucial for your safety. The most reliable method to detect fentanyl in marijuana is by utilizing fentanyl test strips. Simply dissolve a small amount of the substance in water and dip the test strip into the solution to check for the presence of fentanyl. For information on where to acquire fentanyl test strips, refer to our online guides.

There are also some indicators you can look for to suspect if your weed might be laced:

  • Odor: Pure marijuana typically has a natural, earthy scent. If it smells unusually like gasoline, paint, or nail polish, it might be laced.
  • Appearance: Fentanyl-laced weed can be identified by the presence of blue or white crystalline substances, contrasting the natural brown crystals of untainted marijuana.
  • Taste: While it’s challenging to define a specific taste for fentanyl-laced marijuana due to the absence of conclusive research and the alteration of taste when mixed with other substances, any unusual flavor compared to what pure marijuana tastes like might be a sign.

Recognizing laced marijuana is complicated when buying from illicit sources, as there are no regulatory standards to ensure its purity. However, as marijuana legalization expands, particularly for medical use, regulation will improve, making it easier to ascertain the quality and purity of the product from legitimate outlets.

The Effects of Smoking Fentanyl-Laced Weed

Smoking fentanyl-laced weed, whether intentionally or unknowingly, involves the simultaneous use of multiple substances, known as polysubstance use. This situation arises when two or more different substances are present in your system concurrently.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid and acts as a depressant. Depressants, often called downers, generally reduce bodily functions. They can induce relaxation, assist with sleep, and provide pain relief.

Marijuana, while primarily acting as a depressant, can sometimes exhibit stimulant properties. For most individuals, it delivers calming effects, but it can also energize some users and significantly alter one’s perception of reality.

Combining substances with similar effects, such as marijuana and fentanyl, can amplify their impact, leading to quicker onset and heightened risk of overdose. Specifically, with depressants, the danger lies in potentially slowing your breathing and heart rate to critically low levels if consumed excessively.

Is Fentanyl-Laced Weed Dangerous?

The primary risk of fentanyl-laced weed lies in the unawareness of its presence. Reports, such as the one from Elkhart County, highlight instances where individuals treated for opioid overdoses were unaware they had consumed opioids. This lack of awareness significantly elevates the risk of an overdose. Fentanyl’s potency, which is 50 times greater than heroin, means that consuming a typical amount of marijuana laced with fentanyl without knowing can lead to severe and potentially life-threatening side effects.

The Dangers of Smoking Fentanyl-Laced Marijuana

Smoking marijuana laced with fentanyl poses significant health risks, including the possibility of a fatal overdose. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) highlights that even minimal amounts of this dangerous combination can lead to severe symptoms, such as:

  • Deep unconsciousness
  • Variable pupil size
  • Skin that feels cold and damp
  • Cyanosis of the skin
  • Comatose state
  • Death due to respiratory failure

The DEA also cautions that without specialized testing, it’s impossible to gauge the fentanyl concentration in laced marijuana, making any use potentially deadly. Beyond the immediate threat of overdose, the National Library of Medicine’s StatPearls points out that users might face other severe effects from fentanyl, including:

  • Severe constipation
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Increased muscle stiffness
  • Excessive drowsiness
  • Upset stomach
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Unconsciousness

These risks underscore the importance of being cautious with marijuana consumption, especially in areas where fentanyl lacing is known to occur.

The Risk of Fentanyl Overdose

The danger of fentanyl overdose is alarmingly high, with over 150 deaths occurring daily in the US due to this potent opioid, as reported by the CDC. Recognizing the signs of an overdose is crucial for immediate intervention. Symptoms to watch for include:

  • Extremely small pupils
  • Disorientation
  • Mumbled speech
  • Sudden drowsiness or loss of consciousness
  • Reduced breathing rate
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Skin appearing blue or cold to the touch

In such emergencies, it’s vital to seek medical help immediately. Indiana’s Good Samaritan Law ensures individuals won’t face legal repercussions for seeking medical aid in overdose situations.

Being prepared with naloxone, an over-the-counter, FDA-approved antidote for opioid overdose, could be life-saving. It counters the overdose by blocking opioid receptors in the brain. Having naloxone accessible can make a critical difference during an overdose event.

Preventing Overdose on Fentanyl-Laced Weed

To safeguard against the risks of consuming fentanyl-laced marijuana, it’s crucial to be informed about the potential dangers and practice caution in its acquisition. To minimize the risk of accidental fentanyl ingestion, consider the following preventative measures:

  • Always use in the company of others.
  • Opt for legally obtained marijuana where it’s regulated to ensure its purity and safety.
  • Consider substituting marijuana use with legal alternatives.
  • Keep Narcan (naloxone), an emergency medication for reversing opioid overdoses, readily accessible during use.

By adopting these practices, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of experiencing a potentially fatal overdose related to fentanyl-laced marijuana.

Treatment for Fentanyl and Marijuana Addiction

Navigating the path to recovery from marijuana and fentanyl addiction is crucial, especially as marijuana becomes legal in various parts of the US. Despite its legal status, marijuana can still lead to dependency and potential abuse. If you or someone you care about is grappling with substance use, including marijuana or fentanyl, or if these substances are being used to self-medicate underlying mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression, it’s essential to seek professional support.

At Iris Wellness Group, we specialize in comprehensive treatment plans that address both addiction and co-occurring mental health issues, offering a holistic approach to recovery. We’re dedicated to supporting individuals on their journey to wellness and lasting sobriety. Contact us today at 423-441-4650 to discover how we can assist you or your loved one in achieving recovery and wellness.

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