Cannabis Laced with Opioid Fentanyl on the Rise in the US.

Liz Filmer
17 May 2023

A Washington doctor has warned that cannabis laced with fentanyl is becoming more common across the US  after examples were found in New York, Illinois, Louisiana and Alabama.

Fentanyl is a highly concentrated synthetic opioid that is thought to be 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin. Fentanyl is being increasingly mixed with other substances to make them more potent at a low price. Just two milligrams of fentanyl can prove fatal. It is thought that fentanyl is being mixed with cannabis flower and THC gummies to increase the intensity of the high. 

Cannabis itself has gotten stronger in recent years. The THC concentration rose more than 200 per cent between 1995 and 2015. One worry is that this may impact mental health conditions such as Schizophrenia. A study published this month in Psychological Medicine found that cases of schizophrenia in men aged between 21 and 3o may have been preventable by up to 30% without consistent cannabis use. On average, today, cannabis contains three times as much THC  as strains from 25 years ago, and it's easier to get than ever. 

Aside from the increased THC levels, there is a reported rise of cannabis laced with fentanyl. Whether mixed on purpose or accident by dealers, cannabis laced with fentanyl is raising concerns. It is cost-effective for dealers to mix it into their supplies, saving them money and boosting the high experience of users. In 1999, approximately 5% of the 175 deaths from opioids were from fentanyl. By 2021, 1557 (94%) of 1657 opioid deaths could be linked to fentanyl.

Police have claimed to find marijuana laced with fentanyl in Alabama, Illinois, Louisiana and New York. It is nearly impossible to tell if a substance has been laced with fentanyl without using special test strips. This is because you cannot see, taste or smell the opioid. Fentanyl is relatively easy to smuggle across the border, flooding the US from Mexico and China. 

Fentanyl-related deaths surged in the US  in the 2010s. At the beginning of the decade, 2,666 Americans died of a fentanyl overdose. By 2016 that figure had risen to 19,413. Covid only worsened the situation, with 72,484 deaths recorded in 2021. 

This month, San Diego Border Patrol arrested three drug smugglers for attempting to sneak in $ 3 million worth of fentanyl from Mexico.
Some 12,500 pounds of fentanyl have been seized since last October, according to Fox News. 

Liz Filmer