When referring to illicit drugs, to lace means to add a cheaper, often more common substance to a drug, to disguise the additive, or to increase the supply of the drug that can be sold without much increase in cost.
The concept of laced drugs is not new—for decades, drug manufacturers have been mixing substances together discreetly to make more money and increase the potency of the drugs they’re creating.
In this post, we’ll discuss the meaning behind “laced,” the dangers to be aware of in laced drugs, what drugs are commonly laced, and other important information for those who are concerned with what may potentially be in the drugs you or someone you know is using. The more you know and understand about mixed drugs, the better support you can provide for someone who is struggling.
What are the common substances being laced?
Also known as cutting agents, the substances laced into other drugs include a wide variety of chemicals, including:
- Rat poison
- Laundry detergent
- Baking soda
- Talcum powder
Even in a small amount, these substances can lead to adverse and negative reactions when consumed.
Why are drugs being laced?
In some scenarios, drugs can be contaminated during processing. However, this does not explain the concerning increase in mixed drugs in the United States in the last several years.
Laced drugs are often designed to meet demand without costing manufacturers more during production. Use cocaine, for example. When laced with baking soda or talcum powder, less of the actual drug itself is required. Using cheaper substances as cutting agents saves money and allows manufacturers to charge the same price for much less.
Some drug manufacturers lace their products to alter or increase the psychological or psychoactive effects that may not be experienced with lower-quality drugs. Mixing drugs with uppers and stimulants like caffeine can improve the effects and increase demand for the drug over time.
Additionally, illegal drug manufacturers and illegal drug dealers try to make as much profit as possible, so they need to ensure as many return customers as possible. This may explain why they mix extremely addictive opioids like fentanyl with drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. These cutting agents increase the likelihood of the drug user developing an addiction that they may not have developed otherwise.
What drugs are laced with other substances?
There are a few common street drugs that are often cut with other substances that you should be aware of. The most common of these include:
Counterfeit prescription drugs
Look-alike prescription drugs are particularly dangerous because people don’t realize they aren’t authentic until it’s too late. Fake pills are made in other countries and smuggled into the United States. They are made to resemble opioids, including Oxycodone, Percocet, Vicodin, Xanax, and Adderall. Drug dealers market these fake pills as legitimate. In reality, the pills are laced with fentanyl, methamphetamine, or other cutting agents and can be fatal.
Cocaine can be laced with a variety of household items, along with other drugs, which makes it more dangerous. These include:
- Baking soda
- Talcum powder
- Boric acid
Heroin is also commonly cut with household items and dangerous drugs, including:
- Baking soda
- Over-the-counter painkillers
- Talcum powder
- Powdered milk
- Rat poison
MDMA, molly, or ecstasy is an illegal drug that’s often made and laced with harsh chemicals and stimulants, including:
- Lithium acid
- Hydrochloric acid
- Sulfuric acid
- Red phosphorus
Even marijuana is sometimes laced with other substances and drugs, including:
- Lead or heavy metals
- Dried cooking spices like oregano or parsley
- Crack cocaine
What are the dangers of laced drugs?
There is a multitude of dangers involved in ingesting laced drugs.
This year, the DEA recently released a public warning explaining that their testing has revealed that six out of ten fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills contain lethal amounts of fentanyl. These findings are alarming for many reasons—mainly because it means that the chances of interacting with life-threatening counterfeit pills are alarmingly high all over the country. These pills are accessible to children, those struggling with addiction, and many other vulnerable communities.
Many laced substances contain stimulants, which can help mask the signs of an overdose. In doing so, treatment is delayed, and the risk of brain damage and other health complications are much more likely.
Other substances may not dissolve completely and can block the arteries when injected into the bloodstream. This can lead to serious health complications for someone without even realizing what they’re putting into their body.
The fentanyl epidemic sweeping the nation has parents and families on high alert. Recreational drugs are often laced with fentanyl and can have extremely severe, even fatal, side effects. The danger of fentanyl lies in its potency and the rampant availability of the drug in recent years. Often, people are unaware that the drugs they’re taking contain fentanyl, making an overdose more likely and more dangerous.
How can you tell if drugs are laced?
Herein lies the greatest danger in laced drugs—it can be nearly impossible to tell what substances or chemicals are laced in drugs. Many cutting agents are clear and odorless, making it difficult to know what is present in the drugs you’re using.
For the more potent and dangerous substances, like fentanyl, there are testing kits available that can be used to test for the presence of the opioid. Fentanyl test strips help prevent drug overdoses by detecting the presence of fentanyl in drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and pills, powder, and injectables.
The test strips work by mixing a drug with a measured amount of water, then placing one end of the test strip into the mixture, letting it absorb, and reading the results after two to five minutes.
Fentanyl and other harmful substances are often present in counterfeit prescription pills that are sold on the street, at parties for teens, and in various other social settings. If you or someone you know are getting pills from a dealer or off the street, there’s a serious risk that those drugs are laced with other chemicals, stimulants, or substances.
Where do we go from here?
Because the prevalence of laced drugs continues to rise, public awareness is critical in order to save lives. Whether you’re the one using drugs or you are concerned for the safety of someone close to you who is using drugs, knowledge is power.
If you have children and you’re concerned about them being exposed to laced or mixed drugs in social settings, make sure to talk with them openly and honestly about the dangers of mixed drugs and overdosing. Many teenagers start experimenting with drugs around their friends, so raising awareness about the unknowns of taking drugs from someone can make all the difference in your teen’s life.
Do your own research when it comes to taking mixed drugs, and be aware of the possibilities of what you may encounter. If you believe someone you know may be taking drugs laced with fentanyl, make sure they have Narcan (Naloxone) on hand, and encourage them to never use drugs alone. It may save their lives.
Get help with substance abuse at Clear Behavioral Health.
If you or someone you love is using or becoming dependent on drugs or alcohol, seeking treatment is the best way to prevent addiction and a potential overdose. Unfortunately, with the way drug manufacturers are lacing counterfeit prescription pills and other drugs these days, one interaction with a laced drug can be destructive.
That’s why receiving care for drug abuse, addiction, and any other mental health disorders is a multi-pronged approach at Clear Behavioral Health. Our team of experts evaluates patients to determine any underlying mental health problems related to substance abuse and addiction in order to create a treatment plan designed specifically for the individual.
In treatment, patients will go through detox, participate in group and individual therapy, and learn many coping skills to improve their quality of life. No treatment plan is one-size-fits-all; your path forward is entirely your own. Learn more about our programs here.