A Shocking Increase in Cannabis Laced with Other Drugs

Young woman having laced marijuana effects

There’s been a concerning rise in instances of marijuana being laced with other mind-altering substances. Much of the time, users do not know this when they buy the drug, which is worrisome as there are serious risk factors associated with using marijuana that’s been laced with other drugs, risk factors like overdose, even death.

In many parts of the nation, there are already reports of drug users who bought what they thought was marijuana, but which turned out to be marijuana tainted with other mind-altering substances. This has led to several overdoses, some of which have resulted in deaths. The rise of tainted marijuana must serve as an incentive for families, communities, public health officials, and opinion leaders to encourage people not to use marijuana.

The Health Effects; Wet Lung and More

Lungs damage

There are already adverse health effects that result from smoking or otherwise consuming cannabis products. When other drugs are mixed in, the effects become even more dangerous, even more unpredictable.

One paper from the Texas Heart Institute reported on rising cases of “wet lung,” i.e., incidences of respiratory failure. Citing that paper: “Reports have suggested that the use of a dangerously tainted form of marijuana, referred to in the vernacular as ’wet’ or ’fry,’ has increased. Marijuana cigarettes are dipped into or laced with other substances, typically formaldehyde, phencyclidine, or both. Inhaling smoke from these cigarettes can cause lung injuries.” Such may seem extreme, but it is not out of the ordinary for marijuana users to experiment with cannabis laced with such toxic chemicals.

It doesn’t take a great deal of research or imagination to understand the long list of health risks one may experience should they consume tainted marijuana. There are at least three factors to consider here:

1). The health risks of marijuana. Whenever one uses a cannabis product, there are health risks and side effects like cognitive damage, cardiovascular harm, breathing problems, memory loss, the risk for cancer, etc.

2). The health risks of whatever drug is laced into the marijuana. Independent of the cannabis itself, if one uses marijuana that’s been laced with another drug, one opens the door to all of the health effects that can result from using that drug. If a user experiments with fentanyl-laced marijuana, they risk the adverse health effects of marijuana and of fentanyl.

3). The health risks of both drugs, intertwined. Different drugs cause different reactions within the body, and when multiple drugs are present within a person’s body at once, they may cause highly unpredictable and very dangerous phenomena. These are much harder to predict, hence the considerable danger in using tainted marijuana.

The Overdoses; Reports Across the Nation Suggest the Lethal Nature of Tainted Marijuana

In the last few years, there have been increasing reports indicating that users are overdosing on tainted marijuana, primarily due to using marijuana that had been laced with fentanyl. As a dose of fentanyl as small as a grain of rice is enough to cause a potentially fatal overdose, many users were likely not even aware that their marijuana had fentanyl in it.

“Fentanyl is now being concealed in non-injection drugs, including oxycodone and various ‘party drugs’ in powder or pill form, as well as in marijuana.”
overdosed girlfriend

As early as 2015, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and its counterpart in Canada have warned residents about fentanyl-laced marijuana. Quoting one NIDA warning message, “The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has issued a nationwide alert about the dangers of fentanyl and related compounds (fentanyl analogues). Fentanyl, an opioid that is 50-100 times more powerful than morphine, is both abused on its own and commonly added to heroin to increase its potency. Fentanyl and fentanyl-laced heroin have been a concern for over a decade and have caused numerous overdose deaths among injection drug users in several U.S. cities. Fentanyl is now being concealed in non-injection drugs, including oxycodone and various ’party drugs’ in powder or pill form, as well as in marijuana.”

Since 2015, a long list of reports have come forth announcing incidences in which marijuana batches have been laced with cocaine, LSD, PCP, heroin, ketamine, methamphetamine, embalming fluid, formaldehyde, crushed glass, laundry detergent, food coloring, fuel additives, and of course, fentanyl. One report out of Norfolk, Virginia, elicited alarm when it warned locals that seized batches of marijuana had tested positive for fentanyl.

Another report, this one from Alexandria, Virginia, disclosed that four people overdosed on fentanyl-sliced marijuana. Of the four overdose victims, three had to be revived, and the fourth died from the overdose.

Yet another report, this one coming from Winchester, Tennessee, delivered a similar warning. Police department officials had seized a deadly batch of marijuana laced with fentanyl. They sought to warn the public about it, as it was uncertain if other such batches were being distributed in the region. And in this case, as well, several Winchester residents had already overdosed on marijuana and had to be revived by emergency responders.

Laced, tainted, and otherwise altered marijuana is becoming more common, presenting new levels of risk to those who experiment with marijuana.

The Economics

As one studies this issue of marijuana being laced with other drugs, the obvious question arises. Why? Why mix marijuana with other drugs? The use of cannabis creates a unique effect; why change that effect by splicing cannabis with other drugs?

stack of money

Here the issue of economics arises. When marijuana is cut with certain drugs, it becomes cheaper than just pure marijuana. Dealers might do this to sell more marijuana and get more dollars for each respective batch, as the cannabis they are selling has been diluted with another substance.

On the other hand, dealers may mix highly sought-after substances into their marijuana supply to increase potency, drive up demand, and drastically increase the cost of the drug. Though such marijuana will undoubtedly be more dangerous to the user, dealers do not care because they are making more money.

Yet another reason why dealers might mix marijuana with other drugs is to make the drug more addictive, hook customers, and literally make customers into addicts, i.e., permanent customers.

Regardless of the reasoning or incentive behind a dealer cutting their marijuana supply with other drugs, it should be known that doing so can only increase the already present risk factors and harm one faces when experimenting with cannabis.

The Need for Treatment

If someone is using marijuana and cannot stop using it on their own, they need to seek treatment. For a long time, there has been an inaccurate belief within the drug-using community that marijuana is not addictive and is, therefore, safe to use. Neither of these statements is true. Marijuana is addictive, it does carry risks in its use, and those risks are amplified when marijuana batches are laced with other drugs.

If you know someone who is using tainted marijuana, please help them find a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center as soon as possible. Don’t wait until it is too late, and don’t let your loved one contribute to the growing number of people who have died from consuming tainted marijuana.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICCADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP, LCDC



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.