There is no safe way to take drugs, let alone heroin – only treatment at rehab centers can ensure that no further damage is done to the body. Heroin’s multiple methods of administration all carry significant health risks. Smoking it can cause lung damage, snorting the powder form carries a very high risk of overdosing and injecting it intravenously opens the user up to a wide variety of irreversible conditions.
Heroin’s ability to change the chemical makeup of a user’s brain after only a few exposures can all but blind a user to these health risks, and all that matters is the next supply, often of higher dosages. Rather than pure heroin, however, some addicts are being given supplies of the drug spiked with the synthetic opiate-substitute fentanyl, which can be up to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Fentanyl-cut heroin is being found in cities across the eastern U.S. and has already led to hundreds of deaths of users unaware the deadly chemical was added to their supply.
From medical tool to hidden killer Over the last few months, cities from Boston to Miami have reported fentanyl-spiked batches of heroin on their streets. The Baltimore Sun reported that more than 300 overdose deaths since September 2013 have been linked to fentanyl.
Lt. T.J. Smith of the Baltimore Police told The Sun that they are trying to get the message about this deadly additive out to the public.
“We’re trying to tell people, ‘The heroin you’re using right now is not the same kind you were using two years ago,'” he said.
There was speculation that the heroin that actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found with may have contained fentanyl, but ABC News reported that no traces of fentanyl were found in his apartment. Initial toxicology tests were also inconclusive, though a full autopsy may reveal Hoffman’s death was connected to the opiate-like substitute.
SuboxoneCalifornia.com explained that fentanyl was originally synthesized as a painkiller with greater potency than the common morphine. The supply of the drug was tightly controlled from its inception in 1959 to the mid-1990s, when a slow-release patch was produced. The patch grew in popularity and fentanyl became widely-known as a powerful and effective substitute for opiates.
Risking death for a better high Fentanyl is well known within the drug community for its dangerous potency, but that does not mean users are shying away from it. Once a heroin habit is formed and the need for greater potencies is established, it can be near impossible for an abuser to break the cycle without help from others.
Carl Kotowski, special agent of New Jersey’s Drug Enforcement Administration branch, has seen fentanyl-spiked heroin in the Garden State, as well. Kotowski sees the spread of the dangerous additive as preventable, but tragically ironic.
“It does improve the high, and that’s the sick thing about being a heroin addict,” Kotowski told NJ.com. “Word gets around on the street that this particular batch of heroin is making people overdose and die, but that addict, even though he or she has that information, they will think that’s the good stuff. They’ll be drawn to that, even knowing, ‘Hey, that could kill me.'”
Drug addiction cannot be seen as a rational choice between health and illness because the user has become physical dependent on the high. Fortunately, there are treatment centers across the country that specialize in overcoming the physical and emotional barriers that stop many addicts from achieving sobriety. With support from drug treatment professionals as well as families and friends, the journey to getting clean can begin at any moment.