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What are Laced Drugs, and Should You Be Concerned?



In recent years, laced drugs have become a major problem in not only the United States but in many other countries. 

These drugs are created with the intent of producing a bad reaction or overdose for the person who takes them. 

While this is an issue that has been around for decades now, it has recently come to light thanks to increased media coverage and awareness from law enforcement agencies.


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The 2016 National Drug Threat Assessment

The National Drug Threat Assessment, a federal report on the nation’s drug use, gives an overview of what’s known about laced drugs. 

The 2016 version says that while laced drugs are relatively rare, they’re becoming more common because of how easy it is to make them and how difficult they are to detect.

The report says that street-level dealers often lace their drugs with fentanyl or synthetic cathinone-like bath salts to increase their potency before selling them on the market. 

When this happens, users may not realize the difference between laced and non-laced drugs until it’s too late

—and even then, there aren’t always clear signs that would help determine whether or not a product has been laced.

The most recognizable way you might be able to tell if what you have is laced is if you notice any unusual odors coming from your baggie or pill bottle; for example, if someone has mixed heroin with fentanyl to intensify its effects (which leads us into our next section), there could be an odor similar to gasoline when opening up your baggie or bottle of pills

–but this isn’t always reliable because some people may be used to smells like this coming from their own homes/garages/etcetera.


Most reports of laced drugs focus on cocaine and marijuana

The most commonly reported laced drugs are cocaine and marijuana. These two illicit substances are also the most commonly used illicit drugs in the US, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Cocaine is a stimulant drug made from the leaves of coca plants native to South America. 

It stimulates certain brain receptors that produce a feeling of energy and euphoria. 

Marijuana contains compounds found in female cannabis flowers, which can make you feel relaxed, calm, and happy.

While other drugs can be laced as well, such as methamphetamine or heroin

—it’s important to remember that even if someone says their cocaine or marijuana is laced but you don’t see any signs of tampering, there’s no guarantee that what they tell you is true!


Lacing, at least in non-drug products, is done for marketing reasons

Laced drugs are often used to increase the potency or effect of a substance, make it cheaper and more accessible, or make it harder to detect. 

For example, adding fentanyl to cocaine may make that cocaine more addictive and potentially deadly. 

Adding caffeine to heroin can increase the high user’s experience of using heroin. 

And adding powdered sugar might seem like an odd choice when you’re trying to cut costs on a product that’s already cheap

—but in fact, powdered sugar is much easier for law enforcement agencies to detect than refined powders like baking soda or salt.”


Laced cocaine is rarer than laced marijuana

As we previously mentioned, laced marijuana is a far more frequent occurrence than laced cocaine. 

The reason for this is simple: cocaine is more expensive and therefore less likely to be tampered with.

Another factor in the rarity of laced cocaine is that some users will opt to snort powder instead of smoking it, which means they won’t be exposed to any toxic chemicals through inhalation. 

However, if you do choose to smoke or inject your drugs, you must make sure they’re not contaminated with any harmful substances like levamisole (more on this below).


Perhaps the most common ingredient used to lace cocaine is levamisole

Levamisole is an anti-parasite drug that’s also used to treat skin cancer. It’s most often prescribed as a chemotherapy drug, but it can be found in over-the-counter medications as well. 

It’s only available with a prescription in the United States and Canada, though you may be able to buy it over the counter in some countries (like Mexico).

When taken by mouth or injected, levamisole can cause serious side effects like nausea, vomiting, headache, and dizziness. 

But aside from these symptoms being unpleasant experiences for users of laced cocaine—which could potentially discourage some people from consuming the drug

—there are no long-term health implications associated with ingesting this substance.


Levamisole can cause gangrene in the skin and other organs, making it life-threatening

If you’re in the US and find yourself with a suspicious-looking bag of white powder, don’t take it up to your nose. 

The white powder may not be cocaine at all; it could be laced with levamisole, an antiparasitic drug used to treat worm infections.

Levamisole can cause gangrene in the skin and other organs, making it life-threatening. 

It has been reported as an adulterant for cocaine in both North America and Europe since 2009.


Fentanyl is more commonly found in heroin and fentanyl pills than in cocaine

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid, and it’s used to treat severe pain. It can be fatal in small doses. 

Because of its potency, fentanyl has been increasingly mixed into heroin. Because many people don’t know there’s fentanyl in their drugs, they’re at risk of overdosing on the drug without realizing it.

Fentanyl is not only being mixed with heroin; it’s also being mixed with cocaine

—so if you think you’ve been using cocaine, but then start feeling like you’re dying or have an extreme high that feels out of control and lasts longer than usual, you should call Poison Control or emergency immediately.



A thorough understanding of what substances are being used as adulterants will prevent panic about unconfirmed rumors about new threats, and help users make more informed decisions about how to use them safely.

It may be tempting to read this article and shrug off laced drugs as something that only happens in other countries, or at least outside your immediate circle. 

But we have seen cases here in the United States, including people we know personally who have fallen victim to laced drugs. 

It is important for drug users everywhere—and everyone else who cares about them

—to understand the dangers they face when they use illicit substances. 

The more we know about laced drugs and their risks, the safer everyone will be!



With all of the media coverage and public attention, it’s easy to think that laced drugs are a new phenomenon. But they aren’t. 

Laced drugs have been around for years, and they can pose a serious risk to anyone who uses them. 

It’s important to understand what laced drugs are, what effects they can have on you and your loved ones, and how best to protect yourself from these dangerous substances.


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