At the point when users inject heroin into their veins, the drug has already gone through a long supply line. It was probably grown in Afghanistan or South America (if it’s black tar), processed and distributed a few times, in smaller and smaller amounts. By the time it gets to the street level, like any product, it’s probably exchanged hands a few times.
Dealers make more money when they sell more product, but they make even more money when they sell the same product for more money. Cutting heroin achieves that goal. It increases supply by diluting it with other substances and buyers may not realize until it’s too late. But what do people cut heroin with?
Why Do People Cut Drugs?
There are several reasons why a drug manufacturer, dealer, or a user might want to cut heroin or other drugs. Drug dealers often cut heroin with inert substances to stretch their profit margins. If users think they are buying pure heroin but instead might be buying heroin mixed with a cheaper material like flour, the seller will make more money. In some cases, the drug is diluted more with each phase of distribution to the point where the final product on the street is a fraction of pure heroin.
Users may cut drugs for different reasons. Sometimes heroin’s purity is too potent, especially when it’s thought to be mixed with other more powerful opioids. In those cases, a user may cut the drug with another substance to adulterate it’s strength, to avoid overdose.
In the drug community, the term cutting has come to mean mixing anything with the original drug to dilute its purity. In many cases, it weakens its power but, with some substances, it makes it stronger. Some users seek out heroin cut with other powerful opioids to increase potency. This usually done when a user has built a tolerance to standard heroin.
What do People Cut Heroin With?
Depending on the intended purpose of the cut, there are a wide variety of adulterants and mixtures found in heroin. When dealers try to stretch their supply, they usually look for an inert adulterant or something that will dilute the heroin without interacting with the drug or adding anything to the effect.
Since heroin usually comes in a white powder, cheap substances that also come in a similar granular state are preferred. Plus, if the content is water soluble, it will dissolve when it, and the heroin, are heated when preparing the intravenous injection. Non-water soluble substances will leave chunks or flakes behind in the spoon, tipping the user off to the impurity of the heroin.
Dealers often use common kitchen ingredients like starch, flour, sucrose, and powdered milk. All of these options are white powders that are soluble in water (except flour which is only partially soluble). They also don’t interact with heroin, so they should allow dealers to stretch their profit margins without harming anyone right?
Unfortunately, even innocent substances like flour can be dangerous when they are injected into the veins. Common kitchen contaminants in heroin can clump up and block veins and arteries which can lead to heart failure or stroke. They can also lead to weak limbs, collapsed veins, swelling, and many other medical complications.
In some circumstances, other chemical compounds are mixed with heroin for added effects or to change the properties of the substance. Mixing in non-narcotic substances are done for two reasons. For one, certain substances like paracetamol (and analgesic pain reliever) may enhance the experience by easing side effects, giving the impression of a higher quality drug. Additives are especially helpful when selling a lower quality product.
The second reason is to change the method of administration. Caffeine, for instance, allows heroin to vaporize at a lower temperature which facilitates smoking it instead of intravenous injection. However, these substances often do interact with heroin to adverse effects. Caffeine is a stimulant when mixed with heroin (a depressant), can cause strain on your heart.
Other Illicit Drugs
One of the most infamous drug cocktails is a mixture of heroin and cocaine called speedballs. Popularized by late 20th-century rock and roll culture, it gained a reputation as an intense but dangerous high. The mix can lead to heart attack or stroke and has lead to high profile deaths like Chris Farley, John Belushi, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Today, science has produced more powerful opioids than ever before. One such opioid is called fentanyl, and it’s said to be 100 times more potent than morphine, and it’s commonly used as an elephant tranquilizer.
Fentanyl is being cut into other drugs, including heroin because it’s cheap and easy to synthesize. However, its potency is dangerous to intentional users, let alone those you use it by mistake. It may also create a more powerful high. If a dealer is trying to sell a drug that has been diluted, adding fentanyl will amp up its power. Fatal overdoses are becoming more and more frequent with fentanyl being a common cause.
Dangers of Cutting Heroin
In drug culture, pure heroin rarely makes it down to the street level without picking up adulterants along the way. In the 1990s, it was believed that heroin was cut at every level of the supply process. This led to the perception that street-level heroin was only a small percent heroin and the rest was made up of other substances. However, studies showed that heroin is less adulterated than expected.
Dealers will routinely tell users that “this stuff is powerful, be careful with this,” as a selling point. If the user believed they are buying a powerful drug, they’d pay more. However, it’s such a cliche that users tend not to buy it. The danger here is that a person who believes that heroin is heavily diluted and doesn’t believe warnings of its potency is more likely to take more and potentially overdose.
Heroin is a game of Russian roulette. It’s difficult to know what you’re about to use. It could be starch with a hint of heroin, or it could be elephant tranquilizer. There were over 52,000 drug overdoses in 2015 and the problem of unknown substances leading to unpredictable results is a major contributor to that number.
Heroin Addiction Help
If you or a loved one is struggling with heroin or opioid addiction, help may just be a phone call away. Call Pathway to Hope at 844-557-8575 anytime, day or night to learn more about how you can get out from under the pressure of addiction.