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The Down on Dope | Heroin Truth in America

This entry was posted in Addiction News and tagged Addiction, Heroin, Heroin Epidemic, Overdose, Synthetic Opiods on January 11, 2017 by Justin Baksh, MS, LMHC, MCAP, Chief Clinical Officer.

It’s 2017. Heroin is taking a front seat in the semi-truck that’s steering the American drug epidemic, rapidly growing in recent years, coining the catchphrase opioid crisis. So what’s the heroin truth?

Statistics released by the American Society of Addiction Medicine in 2016 cite drug overdose as the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S.

  • 55,403 reported lethal drug overdoses in 2015
  • 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers
  • 12,990 overdose deaths related to heroin

Why Is the Heroin of Today Killing So Many Americans?

The answer is actually fairly simple: What is being bought and sold on the streets isn’t always heroin in its traditional form.

Synthetic Opioids Pack a Lethal Punch

In 2016, there were an alarming amount of heroin seizures that contained synthetic opiates, some of which are up to 10,000 times stronger than heroin or morphine.

More often than not, heroin users do not know that the drugs they are buying and using contain these deadly chemicals. It’s safe to assume that many dealers don’t even really know what they’re selling, though we’re unsure if they’d even care.

That truly is a scary thought. Buying and consuming heroin in 2017 has essentially become a game of Russian roulette on an unprecedented scale.

In this video, a recovering addict describes his experience with overdosing on heroin thought to be laced with a synthetic:

Synthetic Drugs, Additives Laced in Heroin

As of right now, there are a handful of potential threats commonly found in street heroin. The real danger is that many of these synthetic opioids cannot be detected by the naked eye. And just one use can lead to fatal overdose, almost instantaneously.


A potent synthetic opioid with legitimate medical use and available by prescription in the U.S. Fentanyl has a rapid onset and a short half-life, giving users an intense high that does not last very long. Fentanyl is estimated to be up to 100 times more powerful than morphine.


This is an analog of the synthetic opiate fentanyl. It is thought to be up to 10,000 times stronger than morphine, ranking it among the most potent opioids in existence. It is commercially produced and sold under the brand name Wildnil as a sedative for large mammals like elephants. It is believed that a dose as small as a grain of salt can be enough to kill an adult human.


Another analog of fentanyl, studies show it to be 15 times more potent than morphine. While that may not sound like a lot, this drug has a serious lethal potential when it is sold by itself as heroin. It has never been licensed for medical use in the United States and is only available as a street drug.


While not much is known about how this drug interacts with the body, it is a common misconception that W-18 is an opiate. It has minimal interaction with the opioid receptors of the human brain, and what may make this drug so deadly are its cardiovascular side effects. W-18 is known to be imported from China in large quantities, and the United States is currently in a battle with Chinese government officials to ban the export of the drug to our country.


This synthetic opioid has never been studied on humans but is assumed to produce similar effects to other opiates: pain relief, sedation, euphoria, constipation, itching and respiratory depression which could be harmful or fatal. Like any opiate, tolerance and physical dependence would be expected. Like W-18, it is believed this chemical is purchased in bulk from foreign suppliers.

Can We Get a Handle on the Illegal Drug Trade

This can be a loaded question depending on how you look at it. From a law enforcement standpoint, not much can really be done. Outside of laboratory testing samples from heroin seizures in an attempt to pinpoint the source, there is only so much the Drug Enforcement Agency {DEA) can do to stop the spread of heroin laced with synthetics.

The real solution lies within the community: the addicts themselves, and the friends and families that support them. Education and awareness are crucial, as many people who use heroin aren’t even aware of what they are buying and putting into their bodies. If we don’t band together and share knowledge to build community awareness about the dangers, this can be catastrophic. This could arguably equate to the largest public health crisis our country has encountered to date.

Bottom line: If you’re an active user of heroin in America, you are at risk – plain and simple.

The Stigma about Heroin Addiction

Guilt and shame are two reasons many addicts refuse to talk about their issues. Unfortunately, this can be a recipe for disaster with the way heroin and synthetic drug forms are being distributed these days. But we cannot allow the stigmas about heroin addiction and substance abuse to be the roadblocks to getting in front of the opioid epidemic.

Here’s How You Can Make a Difference

Families: talk to your loved ones, no matter how old and wise they may seem. Opioid addiction hits the elderly hard as well. Let them know that there is help available. And remember to always keep an open mind. Addiction is a powerful disease that can be very complex, confusing, and difficult to deal with. Thankfully, there is a wealth of resources at your fingertips, here at Foundations Wellness Center.

When You’re Ready for Help, We’re Here.

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