STREET-bought Adderall and Xanax may be laced with the deadly narcotic fentanyl after a spate of contaminated cocaine deaths in New York and California, experts warn.
Actor Michael K. Williams died from an apparent drug overdose on Monday in NYC, while cocaine tainted with fentanyl killed comics Fuquan Johnson, Enrico Colangeli, and a third pal in Los Angeles on Saturday.
The Wire star Michael K. Williams was found dead in his New York City penthouse yesterday[/caption]
Fuquan Johnson died after taking cocaine laced with fentanyl along with two others in LA[/caption]
Johnson’s friend and fellow comedian Enrico Colangeli was also found lifeless by medics[/caption]
Fentanyl is believed to be 50 times more powerful than heroin and manufacturers press the drug into pills to make them look legitimate, tricking unsuspecting victims.
Last week, at least eight people in Long Island’s North Fork had overdosed on a tainted batch of the drug, leaving six dead who ranged in age from 27 to 40.
After the overdose epidemic tragically claimed a record 93,331 lives in 2020, a 30 percent increase since 2019, Gina Castrianni Outreach Coordinator at Dynamic Youth Community, Inc. (DYC) an addiction treatment center in New York, urged Americans to be vigilant.
She noted that 60 percent of the fatal overdoses last year involved synthetic opioids and were mostly caused by the frightening increase in fentanyl-laced drugs in the United States.
“We’ve been hearing for so long that fentanyl is being laced into all different types of substances, not even just fentanyl being in opioids,” Castrianni told The Sun.
“We’re finding that fentanyl is being laced in Xanex, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, Adderall.”
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Castrianni noted that the issue has escalated in recent years.
The coordinator – who oversees DYS’ outpatient program for 13 to 17-year-olds and the residential program for people aged 16 to through 25 – believes drug dealers are cutting their products with fentanyl because it’s cheaper.
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“Somebody may think they’re just doing a line of cocaine at a party or something – somewhere that you don’t think you’re going to possibly die because you’ve done it so many times before – but now, it’s a different drug supply,” she explained.
She says many of their patients actually seek out deadly fentanyl now because it is so potent.
Castrianni, who marked six years sober on August 25, 2021, after battling a heroin addiction, pointed out the value of Naloxone training in businesses, schools, and communities considering the scale of the issue.
Naloxone, or the brand Narcan, can reverse an overdose by spraying a small amount of it in either nostril and anyone can learn to administer it (Castrianni does several weekly training sessions at DYC).
“Narcan will save lives. And it does save lives. It is such a simple process to be trained – you can be trained in less than 10 minutes,” she said.
“It’s so important, especially for families to know, for schools to know, for different people that work in office buildings. I get phone calls from different bars in the area that have mentioned to me ‘I want my staff Narcan trained,’” she said.
Naloxone is necessary when “there’s a good chance” street cocaine, Adderall, Xanax, and other drugs are now laced with fentanyl, Castrianni warned.
She has experienced the toll of addiction firsthand: she attended 14 different programs in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Florida, during her own drug battle.
“I never thought I would see 30 days or 60 days let alone a year and here I am six years later,” Castrianni told The Sun. “I’m just so grateful for my recovery.
“My drug of choice was opioids, heroin, and crack cocaine. I’ve gone through an overdose before as well. I was around people who were able to bring me to a hospital and get the attention that I needed and everything.
“A lot of my friends I was using with at one point six years ago, I get a text once a week – once a month, sometimes – saying ‘this person passed away.’ And a lot of it is due to fentanyl.”
Janie Simmons, an Associate Research Scientist at New York University (NYU) School of Public Health, pointed out that street fentanyl is unregulated and therefore it’s impossible to guess its potency.
“The problem with fentanyl being on the street is it’s incredibly more potent than even heroin – it’s 30 to 50 times more potent,” she explained.
“So only a little tiny bit in the supply is enough to cause death because, even if you already have a high tolerance to heroin [or other drugs], you may not have a high tolerance to fentanyl.”
She said fentanyl started being used to cut the heroin around 2013 because it was cheaper, ensuring drug dealers got “more bang from their buck.”
“It’s been increasing exponentially every year and it’s a big reason why we’re seeing more overdoses,” Simmons told The Sun. “Fentanyl is in most of the drug supply now, over 60 percent. In places like New York, it’s even higher.”
Simmons pointed out that there’s always been a hierarchy when it comes to drug use, saying: “Even heroin addicts saying ‘I only sniff, I don’t inject.’
Fentanyl is in most of the drug supply now.
Janie Simmons, an Associate Research Scientist at NYU School of Public Health
“It’s not just that level of risk, it’s also the level of stigma,” continued the scientist, who specializes in overdose and HIV prevention.
“The problem is the illicit drug supply. In the same way that we had prohibition for alcohol, there was a lot of contaminated alcohol that killed people.
“Alcohol still kills but not in the same way. You didn’t die because you drank something that poisoned you, right. I mean alcohol can poison you if you drink too much of it but it’s not the same.
“I would like to see elicit drugs regulated and taxed so people know what they’re getting. There’s a huge number of people dying and it’s preventable.”
The United States Drugs Enforcement Administration (DEA) notes that synthetic opioids like fentanyl are largely responsible for the 38.4 percent increase in overdose deaths during the 12-month period ending May 2020.
The Sun approached the CDC for comment and did not receive a response at the time of publication.
Gina Castrianni, Outreach Coordinator at Dynamic Youth Community, Inc, noted that 60 percent of the fatal overdoses last year involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl[/caption]
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