Recreational substances of dubious origin are certainly nothing new. But lately doctors are seeing a spike in patients who have taken acetyl fentanyl, a deadly street drug that's stronger than heroin . . . and quasi-legal. Science Daily reports that ER docs should expect "an upswing in what on the surface appear to be heroin overdoses, but are actually overdoses tied to acetyl fentanyl, an opiate that is mixed into street drugs marketed as heroin."
Like heroin and the strongest prescription pain medications, acetyl fentanyl is an opiate — a class of substances already prone to abuse by recreational users. As we all know, heroin is pretty darn strong to begin with (heroin probably killed Philip Seymour Hoffman) — but acetyl fentanyl is five to 15 times stronger even than that. And it's not explicitly illegal — it exists in a legislative gray area. "A large quantity of acetyl fentanyl would potentially be immune to regulation as long as it was titled, labeled and stored as a product with industrial or non-human research purposes," Science Daily reports. So basically, it's like if you could legally get heroin, as long as those selling it marked it "not for human consumption."
This extreme potency of acetyl fentanyl is extra bad news because acetyl fentanyl looks and feels much like heroin. That means that users may take the former thinking it's the latter, and easily overdose. On top of that, acetyl fentanyl patients often do not respond to the recommended amounts of life-saving naloxone that doctors are trained to administer to heroin overdose patients.
So please, if you needed a compelling reason not to try heroin, remember that a deadly super-strong impostor is lurking on the streets and (rightly) beware. Perhaps if recreational drugs were legal but closely regulated, we would not see so many deaths per year due to impurities, quality issues, and dosing mistakes like these. But, given how slowly the march toward legal marijuana has been going, it may be quite a while.
While we're waiting for carefully regulated recreational substances, you'd best stay away from all street drugs, of which there are many. "Krokodil" will literally give you horrifying scaly patches of skin. 2C-P can make you hallucinate for almost an entire day. Butane hash oil can cause you to lose consciousness rather than enjoy being conscious more (oops). Suboxone can land you in the emergency room. And although "Molly" (MDMA) has seemingly become really popular in recent years, Molly is not without its risks either: in particular, an elevated body temperature combined with the usual party environment (and additional substances) can be a recipe for disaster. Alcohol isn't perfectly safe, but that traditional, time-tested recreational substance sure is looking better by the second, eh?