Blog - Beach House Rehab Center
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February 4, 2022

Fentanyl in Cocaine

It’s no secret that one danger of buying drugs on the street is that there’s no quality control. Especially with white-powder drugs that resemble a thousand other substances, it’s common for sellers to add “filler” to stretch the supply for increased profit. Sometimes the additions are harmless in themselves—and sometimes they’re deadly. One drug that commonly comes with “hidden ingredients” is cocaine, and one of the deadliest fillers found in cocaine is fentanyl. Learn the dangers of fentanyl in cocaine.

About Cocaine and Fentanyl

Though they may look alike, cocaine and fentanyl are entirely different drugs. Cocaine is a stimulant made from the South American coca plant. When inhaled (“snorted”), it floods the brain with dopamine and generates intense energy and euphoria—or sometimes irritability and paranoia. While cocaine is considered an addictive drug, it does not typically generate physical withdrawal symptoms when use is interrupted, although the emotional symptoms (nightmares, anxiety, cravings for cocaine) can be agonizing.

Fentanyl, by contrast, is a synthetic opioid and has depressant and pain-killing effects. It also has fifty times the potency of heroin, which has made fentanyl increasingly popular in its own right: smaller-but-equally-potent doses are easier to transport and cheaper to manufacture. But the potency of fentanyl also makes it extremely dangerous, a high risk for accidental overdose. There may even be risk of absorbing fentanyl through skin contact.

When Fentanyl Is Mixed With Cocaine

Fentanyl has long been used as a filler in heroin and other relatives from the opiate/opioid family; but around the late 2010s, fentanyl began showing up in cocaine as well. Mixing such different drugs only increases the dangers of illegal substance use, because:

  • Simply taking different drugs together means potentially unpredictable combinations of effects.
  • People who think they take “only” cocaine may develop opioid addiction without realizing it, if fentanyl-laced cocaine is a frequent part of their drug diet.
  • Both cocaine and fentanyl can trigger life-threatening overdose. Naloxone, used to reverse fentanyl overdose, is ineffective against cocaine—so if the fentanyl was responsible for the overdose, and users, witnesses, and first responders are unaware of the presence of fentanyl, the needed treatment may not be recognized until too late.

Occasionally, mixing of cocaine and fentanyl is deliberate on the user’s part—a recipe for a “speedball,” which is typically used in hope of achieving a “rush” without the subsequent emotional “crash.” In theory and often in practice, the two drugs will cancel out each other’s negative effects and leave only the positive. But it’s a dangerous game to play: besides the already-mentioned dangers of combining the drugs, speedball users are at extra risk for stroke and for heart or respiratory failure.

If Someone May Have Taken Fentanyl With Cocaine

The obvious way to avoid the fentanyl-and-cocaine risk is to never buy street drugs, and to never sniff at or handle white powder of uncertain origin. However, if anyone collapses or becomes ill after taking “cocaine”—and especially if they exhibit symptoms that seem more depressant- than stimulant-induced—call 911 for emergency medical help, and mention the possibility of fentanyl in the cocaine. If you have access to a first aid kit with naloxone, know that giving it to someone who has taken only cocaine is unlikely to do harm—while prompt administration, if fentanyl is present, could save a life.

One other important thing to know is that people who become addicted to cocaine—or fentanyl or any other street drug, for that matter—often start by casually misusing drugs under “safe” circumstances. If you use drugs for any reason, even by prescription or as a nightly glass of wine, and you notice even tiny hints that “normal” use is progressing toward addiction, see a doctor sooner rather than later. As with fentanyl, so with general drug use: “tiny” things can prove deadly problems.

Safe Treatment for Any Addiction

If you have a substance use disorder—whether the problem substance is fentanyl, cocaine, or something else altogether—Beach House Rehab can help. We provide customized individual treatment in a comfortable setting to help you reclaim your life. Contact us today to learn more!