By: Rachel Clark, DanceSafe Contractor
Anecdotal reports of likely fentanyl-related overdoses, including deaths, are arising from multiple regions in Colorado. The city of Denver has experienced a 282% increase in fentanyl-related overdose deaths, when comparing the first half of 2019 with the first half of 2020.
Reports have included a death from an adulterated blue Xanax bar in Boulder, and another from a blue Oxy (presumably 30mg, though warnings about fentanyl in 10mg pills have also been released) in Colorado Springs, both in the last few days.
At this time, pressed pills sold as pharmaceutical opioids on the illicit markets are extremely likely to be adulterated or misrepresented entirely. Because of the level of quality control required to create actual pharmaceutical-grade drugs, it is very uncommon that illicit market pills are actually anywhere close to the real thing. Fentanyl’s extraordinarily low dosage (approximately 25-50 micrograms) means that a lethal dose can be as low as 250ug. Doses of 1-2mg have a high potential for lethality. To put it in perspective, this is approximately the size of a few small grains of sand. 250 micrograms is practically a speck.
For this reason, a manufacturer can adulterate a pressed pill with a tiny quantity of fentanyl and successfully disguise it, drastically increasing the potency of a pressed pill sold as an opioid (or depressant-like substance, such as Xanax). Due to the tiny quantity of fentanyl needed to have a psychoactive effect, replacing other opioid content with fentanyl is an effective means of increasing profit margins and accessibility to materials. In the case of fentanyl appearing in other drugs like cocaine, this may be due to accidental cross-contamination while packaging materials in environments that handle multiple kinds of drugs, rather than intentional adulteration.
Purchasing supposed pharmaceuticals off of the illicit market should always be accompanied by drug checking practices to the best of one’s ability, and used under the supervision of a person who is equipped with Narcan. Similar incidents are rising around the country – the prevalence of fentanyl is continuing to soar. Using fentanyl test strips provides an incredibly important first line of defense against accidental overdose; however, it is critically important to follow all instructions regarding dissolving the entire sample and diluting properly. Failing to do so may result in false negatives. After dissolving a sample in water, waiting a few days will allow the water to evaporate out, if the substance is desired in powder form.
We urge our community to keep in mind that drug markets are expansive and that these adulterated pressed pills may appear in places other than Colorado. Using a reagent test kit can help provide a first line of defense as a presumptive (and not affirmative) process. Additionally, samples may be sent in to www.ecstasydata.org for in-depth laboratory testing. Test before you ingest to avoid taking misrepresented substances, and so you can adjust your intention, set, and setting appropriately to minimize risks. You can purchase fentanyl strips here.
The purpose of #TestIt Alerts is to alert the public to misrepresented substances circulating in their region. We neither condemn nor condone drug use, but rather want people to be aware of what they are ingesting so they can take steps to minimize risks.
Since 1998, DanceSafe has been keeping the electronic music and nightlife communities safe. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, we provide free harm reduction services at music festivals and nightlife events across the nation. All proceeds from the sales of our drug checking kits go back into the organization so we can continue to provide our services to our communities for free. By purchasing a kit, you are not only helping keep you and your friends safe, you are also contributing to the harm reduction movement. Thank you for your support!