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Dangers of Illicit Drug Contaminants

Most drugs are dangerous by themselves, but are becoming increasingly more dangerous by other chemical agents that are mixed in with them. Many substances are combined with other drugs to give the appearance of more of the drug or to potentiate the drug’s effects. Other dangerous substances are in common illicit drugs as a residue from the manufacturing process.

The purity of heroin sold on the street is only about 35 percent. Additives often include caffeine, acetaminophen, phenobarbital,  and quinine. However, fentanyl is one of the most common and most dangerous additives in street heroin. Fentanyl is 1,000 times stronger than morphine and routinely shows up in drugs marketed as heroin.

Melissa Moore of the Drug Policy Alliance, in a 2018 NBC News article by Corky Siemaszko, entitled Fentanyl Figures in Most Fatal Drug Overdoses in the U.S., Researchers Say, explained “It’s basically a poisoning epidemic. Now, as fentanyl is being cut into the heroin supply, it makes that much more dangerous. People don’t know what they’re getting. An overdose from straight heroin might take a couple hours. An overdose from fentanyl can happen in 60 seconds.” From 2010 to 2017, the number of fatal overdoses that involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl increased from 14 percent to 46 percent.

There is also the danger of remnants of dangerous substances being present in drugs as a result of illegal drug preparation. One of the most terrifying examples of this is desomorphine, better known as krokodil. Desomorphine is an opioid analogue that is similar to morphine but much stronger and shorter acting. According to the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, “The clandestine manufacturing process is similar to that of methamphetamine. ‘Homemade’ desomorphine made this way is highly impure and contaminated with various toxic and corrosive byproducts.”

The process of making desomorphine involves the use of codeine, iodine, gasoline, paint thinner, hydrochloric acid, lighter fluid, and red phosphorous. When made by clandestine chemists, many of these chemicals and substances still remain in the final product at dangerously high levels. These adulterants, and the fact that users must continually injecting the drug, results in severe tissue damage, vein injury, and gangrene.

It is not only drugs marketed as heroin that have a dangerous problem with contaminants. Samples of MDMA generally include methamphetamine and dextromethorphan. Samples of methamphetamine often contain lead as a result of improper manufacturing processes. Any drug bought on the street is bound to contain contaminants and adulterants at some level which could lead to serious mental and physical health consequences.

Your health doesn’t have to be diminished as a result of addiction. You can make the courageous decision to seek help now and begin building a brighter future in sobriety. Resilient House, a treatment facility located in beautiful Shreveport, Louisiana, understands the tolls addiction can take on your mind, body, and spirit. The caring and compassionate staff at Resilient House are ready to address all the aspects of substance dependency to bring you to a state of wholeness that supports long-term sobriety. For information about treatment options, please call today: (833) 242-6431