People have been dying from opioid and cocaine cocktails regularly since 2010, but there hasn’t been much reporting on it. That’s partially because the focus is on the fact that these deaths were from opioids. But calling these deaths “opioid overdoses” is problematic because, in some cases, the drug users were never aware that they were using an opioid.
According to the Washington Examiner, more than 10,100 people died from mixing the drugs in 2017. 7,241 of those deaths showed both cocaine and fentanyl in their systems. Fentanyl is a potent opioid about 50 to 200 times stronger than morphine. It’s also the deadliest opioid in the US, with the majority of deaths in 2017.
Deaths caused by opioids and cocaine have risen nearly 76 percent since 2012.
Recently, opioid test strips have emerged across the United States as a part of harm-reduction efforts. The strips, which cost $1 each and have been given out with needle exchange programs and at other places drug users frequent, can detect even a minute amount of fentanyl. Cocaine and heroin users must mix some the drug with water to create a liquid form.
The test strips are not perfect and sometimes may give a false positive. Officials worry that the strips will give drug users a sense of false security, but harm reduction proponents say that combined with other methods of harm reduction, such as t6he overdose-reversal drug Naloxone, it will save lives. People will use their drug of choice, either way, harm reduction advocates say.
Harm reduction advocates hope that these tools, combined, will give a person enough tools to stay alive so that when they want to quit getting high, they can. After all, you can’t get a dead person into addiction treatment.
It’s not clear why drug dealers are adding fentanyl to the supply of other illicit street drugs. Many of the drugs sold in the US come from chemists in China or other international supply. Sometimes the drugs are pressed in the US, but sometimes the drugs are bought already formulated.
Getting the drugs off the streets seems a monumental task. Testing for the drugs, however, will be a bit more straightforward now that the test strips have begun to circulate.