Instances of Fentanyl Mixed in Cannabis on the Rise
Stories of fentanyl being added to cannabis are cropping up nationwide. This growing crisis poses a serious risk to cannabis users, and it erodes the concept that using marijuana can be at all “safe.” People who use marijuana have no way of knowing if their batch of cannabis has been laced with fentanyl. They are taking their lives into their hands every time they get high.
News Reports from Across the Nation of Marijuana Laced with Fentanyl
The presence of fentanyl-laced cannabis is not just speculation. It’s a real threat, it’s happening, and it’s happening today. The following are brief snippets of news reports gathered from across the United States in which fentanyl was either found in marijuana or in which fentanyl was implicated in emergencies involving marijuana. The following news reports were published between 2017 and 2022:
- “Winchester [Tennessee] Police Department officials warned the public of a potentially deadly batch of marijuana laced with fentanyl. Officials took to social media last week to warn the public after responding to a few overdose calls – two of which were from marijuana that included fentanyl.”
- “A [Nashville] Tennessee District Attorney is offering a warning about a new, deadly mix of drugs – marijuana mixed with fentanyl. DA Matthew Stowe told News 2 the drug is here in Tennessee and he can’t warn people fast enough.”
- “After responding to seven overdoses in the span of 48 hours last week, officials in Elkhart [Indiana] are warning about the prevalence of fentanyl-laced marijuana. Experts say the concoction has become more common in Michiana over the past few years as dealers are increasingly turning to the opioid as a cheap way to make street drugs more potent and addictive.”
- “Connecticut’s Department of Public Health insists it has verified at least one recent incident in which someone unknowingly consumed fentanyl-laced marijuana obtained on the illicit market. Overall, officials at the agency said, they have linked around 40 opioid overdoses in the state since June to contaminated cannabis.”
- “Police Chief Christopher Yates [Danville, Illinois] said there have been reports of marijuana users experiencing severe psychedelic side effects and typical fentanyl overdose symptoms of itching, nausea and serious respiratory depression.”
- “Police responded to Bloomfield High School at 10:48 a.m. Thursday following reports of an apparent drug overdose… According to the Bloomfield, Connecticut Police Department, the overdose is believed to have been caused by fentanyl-laced marijuana.”
- “Fentanyl was found in a vaping device seized at North Scott [Iowa] High School. Medical and cannabis professionals say dealers are mixing marijuana with fentanyl more often, and the result could be deadly.”
There is no questioning the facts. Fentanyl-laced cannabis is a growing trend across the nation which poses a severe risk to people who use cannabis.
Fentanyl: America’s Most Lethal Drug
Fentanyl is an extremely potent opioid. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published findings on fentanyl potency, indicating that the drug is about 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl was initially intended for only extremely limited uses, such as for cancer patients and in palliative care. Unfortunately, the drug’s chemical structure has been copied, and it is now manufactured illegally in clandestine drug labs.
The statistics around the harm caused by fentanyl are particularly grim. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, fentanyl is the primary drug present in a majority of opioid overdose deaths. NIDA reported that, of the 91,799 Americans who died from drug overdoses in 2020, opioids were present in 68,630 overdoses. Approximately 56,616 of those deaths were caused by fentanyl or a similar synthetic opioid. That means about 150 Americans die from overdoses involving fentanyl every day, making it the leading cause of drug-related deaths.
By Itself, Cannabis Is Still Harmful
While cannabis does not lay claim to tens of thousands of overdose deaths each year as fentanyl does, cannabis is not harmless. Marijuana is the most commonly used addictive drug in the United States. According to NIDA reports, its use among young people is of particular concern, with 11.8 million young people using marijuana.
Even if a drug user gets a batch of marijuana that just has marijuana in it, he or she will still almost certainly experience unwanted side effects. Marijuana use has been known to cause:
- Significantly altered senses and perceptions
- An altered sense of time and place
- Changes in mood, often occurring rapidly
- Impaired body movement and motor function
- Pronounced difficulty with thinking and general problem-solving
- Impaired memory, both long-term and short-term
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Experiencing psychosis (the risk for psychosis is highest with the regular use of high potency marijuana)
These are just the short-term effects of experimenting with marijuana. Long-term effects of repeat use of the drug include:
- Breathing problems
- Heart disease
- Memory loss
- Reduced cognitive function
- Increased risk for stroke
- Intense nausea and vomiting
Last but not least, as THC levels in marijuana have increased over the decades, marijuana has become more potent. Higher THC levels may explain the increase in marijuana-related emergency room visits and greater numbers of Americans citing marijuana addiction as their reason for seeking treatment.
The Need for Addiction Treatment
The idea that marijuana is not harmful is a myth. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 17% of annual treatment center admissions are of drug addicts citing marijuana as their primary drug of choice. Marijuana is harmful, and it’s causing people to seek help. And now that there have been several reported cases of marijuana being laced with fentanyl, the risk of a critically dangerous event tied to using marijuana has become far greater.
If you know someone who is using marijuana and who cannot stop using it, or if you suspect one of your loved ones is addicted to marijuana, please do everything you can to get your loved one into a drug and alcohol rehab center. Please do not wait until it is too late.
Reviewed by Claire Pinelli; ICAADC, ICCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP, LCDC