The inability of a drug user to know what has actually gone into the drug they are taking remains, to me, one of the strongest reasons to avoid using illicit drugs, and also, to protect those for whom two decades of “Just Say No” clearly hasn’t had any effect at all, the best reason for their decriminalisation, supply under controlled circumstances, not to mention taxing them.
Unlike smoking cannabis – where one can actually see the raw material, if not know its strength – taking a pill, powder or injecting a concoction is always a case of Russian roulette.
The popular party drug cocaine, for example, is nearly always supplied in an adulterated form. The most commonly used products to ‘cut’ cocaine are baking powder, lactose, mannitol, lidocaine or benzocaine. (That’s the stuff you put on sore teeth, with mimics cocaine’s nose-numbing effect, thus fooling the user into believing they’re getting a better quality dose of cocaine.) It can also be cut with other stimulants products like methamphetamine.
It is not unheard of for cocaine or heroin to be cut with a variety of products that it would be generally be considered unwise to put up y0ur nose or into your bloodstream.
These include any other whitish powder, which may have unexpected side effects, such as laxatives, for example, and in one famously awful incident, laundry-grade powdered nappy cleaner.
Over the last couple of years warnings also went out that almost a third to a half of the cocaine circulating the US, Canada, (and maybe the world) was contaminated with a (potentially) poisonous veterinary de-worming agent called levamisole which had already killed several people and made many more people sick.
Levamisole causes a condition called agranulocytosis which means that it kills white blood cells which are a necessary part of your body’s immune system and prevent small things like a sore in the mouth from escalating into deadly infection.
In addition to temporarily AIDS-ifying your immune system, levamisole may also make cocaine more cardiotoxic and increase risk of seizures, meaning that it has three potential ways of killing you.
So if you’re a cocaine user and you experience thrush (especially of the mouth), sores that won’t heal or other skin infections, high fever, or flu-like/pneumonia symptoms you need to get to the quack fast – and quote this article.
On the other hand, you might not need to tell the doc about your problem in any detail, as another dead giveaway sign is that your nose and ears turn purple and drop off. The effect is so common that media outlets in the USA have christened it “flesh eating cocaine”.
Although pure, laboratory quality LSD has a wide margin of safety, street LSD may be laced with phencyclidine (PCP), commonly known as “angel dust,” “killer weed,” and “rocket fuel.”
PCP is a much more dangerous hallucinogen. As a result, tainted samples make street-sold LSD (as well as other drugs) especially unpredictable. Even with pure LSD, people can experience “bad trips,” with feelings of confusion, terror, anxiety, depression, and/or paranoia lasting up to several hours. In some cases, this extreme agitation has led to accidental death or suicide as people panic and attempt to flee from their hallucinations.
Anyhow, if that’s not enough to put you off, CNN now report that Dr. Karl Williams says he normally sees three or four deaths from drug overdoses in a typical week as the chief medical examiner in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh. But in the past week, he saw 15 – men and women, of various ethnicities, ranging in age from 22 to 53. All of them appear to have been heroin users who instead received a mix of heroin and fentanyl, a powerful narcotic used to treat cancer patients’ pain, Williams told CNN.”This is pretty clearly somebody manufacturing fentanyl and selling it as heroin.”
The deaths Williams has recorded are among nearly two dozen in western Pennsylvania linked to a heroin-fentanyl mix, state Attorney General Kathleen Kane said Monday. The “extremely dangerous and potentially lethal” combination has killed 22 people in six counties, Kane said in a written statement.
“We are working with the Allegheny County Police Department, the Pittsburgh Police, and their counterparts in the region to get this deadly mix of heroin off the streets of Western Pennsylvania, and to arrest and prosecute anyone caught selling, distributing, and producing these drugs,” her statement said.
Williams said fentanyl can be 10-100 times more potent than morphine, the base molecule in heroin, and it’s only distributed as a powder when someone is manufacturing it illegally. The drug is being distributed in bags marked “Income Tax,” “Bud Ice” and “Theraflu, Williams said.
“This is not accidental. Somebody is deliberately trying to make a big batch of fentanyl,” he said. “It is not an extraordinarily complex molecule to synthesize, and you can find instructions on the Internet. It does not take a sophisticated chemist to do this.”
It’s not the first time that fentanyl has turned up on the streets of Pittsburgh. In 1988, Williams said, 17 people died when a chemist distributed fentanyl as heroin.
And in 2006, in Philadelphia, 269 people were killed by fentanyl overdoses, the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs said. The agency raised new alarms about fentanyl in July, blaming it for 50 deaths in Pennsylvania by mid-2013.
People: be careful out there.