As the opioid epidemic rages on, drug overdose deaths are at an all-time high. In fact, the rates of drug overdose death have reduced the national rate of life expectancy for the last three years in a row. Unfortunately, these trends may continue into the new year. Moreover, opioids are not the only threat to the nation’s overall health. Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) on emerging trends and patterns in the United States has revealed a list of street drugs with persistent trends. Based on that information, here are the top 10 most dangerous street drugs that could drive drug overdose trends in 2019.
Kratom comes from a tropical deciduous tree native to Southeast Asia. The tree’s leaves contain a psychoactive opioid that can treat pain and boost mood. This may sound harmless, but this drug carries more risks than rewards. In February 2018, the FDA and CDC linked a multistate outbreak of salmonella infections back to products containing kratom. During the outbreak, a total of 28 people in 20 states contracted salmonella. Of them, 11 people needed hospital care. Thankfully, there were no casualties. Since then, many states have outlawed kratom. Still, that has not stopped users from finding ways to get it. Kratom use has been on the rise even after the salmonella outbreak. We may continue to see trends of it in 2019.
2. E-Cigarettes and Vapes
E-cigarettes and vapes have been growing in popularity over the last few years, especially among young adults and even teens. While casual smokers would argue that vaping is safe, the FDA argues otherwise. In fact, many vaping products contain nicotine and other addictive substances. Moreover, several reports show that teenagers who use e-cigarettes or vapes did not initially realize that they contain substances like nicotine. In April of 2018 alone, the FDA cited a total of forty e-cigarette retailers for violations regarding their marketing tactics. Although the FDA and other organizations are currently working to ensure that teens do not have access to potentially addictive and development-stinting chemicals through vaping, the e-cigarette trend is bound to continue into 2019. Read more about the emerging e-cigarette trend here.
3. Synthetic Marijuana, or K2/Spice
Synthetic cannabinoids are human-made mind-altering chemicals that come in liquid form. These street drugs, especially K2/Spice, have two routes of administration. Some users spray the liquid drug on dried, shredded plant material and smoke it like a cigarette. Others vaporize it and smoke it through an e-cigarette or vape pen. Even though there have been several reports of synthetic cannabinoid-related overdoses since 2015, these products remain incredibly popular among smokers, especially among young adults and teenagers. And, since these drugs are widely accessible and easy to hide, it’s likely that trends of synthetic cannabinoid use will continue into the new year.
4. Anticoagulants, or Blood Thinners
Most forms of drug use have become riskier in light of a deadly trend: lacing. Over the past few years, drug labs and dealers have begun adding new, questionable ingredients to their batches. Some of the most potentially hazardous substances that dealers use in their products are anticoagulants, or “blood thinners.” Most people who abuse street drugs, like marijuana or synthetic marijuana, don’t even realize that they may also be consuming blood thinners. In fact, several Midwestern states experienced a massive outbreak of overdoses caused by street drugs laced with brodifacoum, an anticoagulant typically used in rat poison. This outbreak seems to have affected Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Maryland the most. Two people died as a result of overdosing on anticoagulant-laced synthetic opioids. Unfortunately, this trend of lacing street drugs with other chemicals is bound to continue into 2019.
5. Fentanyl-Laced Fake Prescription Drugs
One substance that dealers use to lace their products that poses a large threat is fentanyl. This narcotic is the most potent painkiller on the market. Many doctors prescribe fentanyl to patients who suffer severe, around-the-clock pain. Other than that, doctors typically reserve fentanyl for those who have just had major surgery. However, in recent years, fentanyl has become a driving force behind the ongoing opioid crisis. In fact, the DEA reports that, throughout 2018, street drugs laced with fentanyl flooded the drug market. Among these drugs were fentanyl-laced counterfeit prescription drugs. These pills, which traffickers have designed to look like legitimate prescription pain relievers, have caused a large number of overdoses in many parts of the country so far. Many fear that the trend will continue. Read the full DEA report here.
6. Fentanyl-Laced Heroin
Of all the illicit drugs available on the market today, heroin is the one that most dealers lace with fentanyl. Since fentanyl is already much stronger than heroin, this has led to a surge of heroin-related overdoses nationwide. In fact, since 2013, there has been a notable increase in fentanyl-related heroin overdose deaths. So far, this trend has heavily impacted cities like Baltimore and Detroit. Evidence from several investigative sources seems to indicate that heroin users are unknowingly consuming fentanyl in what they believe to be doses of pure heroin. Of course, large amounts of fentanyl can lead to overdose and even death. Since the lacing trend shows no signs of slowing down, we may face another surge of fentanyl-related heroin overdose deaths in 2019.
7. Fentanyl-Laced Cocaine
In the past, the presence of fentanyl had been more common in heroin-involved deaths. However, in more recent years, fentanyl has been linked to overdose deaths involving a wide variety of other illicit drugs. In fact, the number of cocaine overdoses involving fentanyl has been on the rise. The NYPD has already confirmed through laboratory testing that many of the cocaine products and other street drugs in circulation contain dangerous amounts of fentanyl. Moreover, the New York City Health Department released an advisory warning to cocaine users, detailing that the potent opioid has been linked to several cocaine overdose deaths already. The full advisory is available here. Unfortunately, this trend continued into 2018 and is projected to continue into 2019.
8. Counterfeit Oxycodone
Oxycodone, like fentanyl, is another medication that treats pain and requires a prescription. Most users who don’t have legal access to it get it on the street. However, since May of 2018, counterfeit oxycodone tablets have been circulating within the illicit drug market. This trend hit especially hard for the state of Mississippi. In fact, the Gulfport Narcotics Detectives have already seized several batches of counterfeit oxycodone tablets since the start of this new drug trend. Moreover, scientists in DEA labs have discovered that these counterfeit tablets do not contain any oxycodone at all. In fact, most oxycodone counterfeits only contain fentanyl, which can be fatal in large doses. After the DEA found that dealers were repackaging fentanyl as oxycodone, the Gulfport police department released this police notice to warn the public. Still, even today, anyone who illicitly purchases “oxycodone” tablets may instead get a fatal dose of fentanyl.
9. Carfentanil-Laced Heroin
Carfentanil is a powerful derivative of fentanyl, a synthetic narcotic that comes from morphine. While fentanyl is 100 times more powerful than morphine, carfentanil is 10,000 times more potent than morphine. Its primary use is as a veterinary tranquilizer for elephants and other large animals. It is so potent that when veterinarians handle it, they have to use protective gear. So, naturally, a drug this powerful is not approved for human use. However, drug dealers have been lacing their heroin supplies with carfentanil since around 2016. Heroin alone is already a dangerous substance, but with so many carfentanil-laced batches in circulation within the illicit drug market, there’s no way to tell which ones contain the opioid. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) even issued a nationwide warning to the public and law enforcement about carfentanil-laced drugs like heroin.
Oxymorphone, also called Opana, is a former prescription drug that the FDA banned back in 2017. It was once a legal opioid tablet that treated pain. However, it also came in the form of an injection, and so it carried all the same risks that most injections do. In 2015, the southeastern area of Indiana suffered a massive outbreak in new HIV cases. Health officials traced the fast-spreading outbreak to the co-occurring trend of intravascular oxymorphone abuse. Users were sharing used injection equipment, which is one of the most common ways of transmitting the deadly virus. The HIV outbreak, coupled with the fact that oxymorphone was already highly addictive (and was likely a driving factor in the opioid crisis), pushed the FDA to ban entirely. Even so, its availability on the street shows that another surge of oxymorphone abuse is possible.
Get Help at Lumiere Healing Centers
Street drugs are more dangerous than ever. If you have any questions about addiction or need immediate help, call Lumiere Healing Centers at 513-909-2225.