In 2012, an estimated 23.9 million Americans aged 12 years or older had used an illicit drug or abused a psychotherapeutic medication (such as a pain reliever, stimulant or tranquilizer) in the past month, according to statistics by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This is an increase from past years, mainly because of the recent rise in the use of marijuana, the most commonly used illicit drug. However, opioids, stimulants, benzodiazepines, bath salts, inhalants and even antipsychotics are now sold on the street. People who wish to get high have learned to snort, crush, inject, inhale and even consume rectally these illicit drugs.
In 2013 alone approximately 43,000 people died from drug overdose and more than 1.5 million arrests for drug law violations were made, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is disconcerting considering the fact that the U.S. government spent more than $16 billion on the War on Drugs in 2010. The U.S. has the largest prison population in the world, and about half of the prisoners are convicted on drug charges. Statistics don’t lie; the drug addiction battle on the street is real and lethal.
Medications abused with illicit drugs
Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone) cannot be abused as an intravenous drug, right? Wrong. Crushing this medication and shooting up is a popular method of abuse. Street value of a 10mg tablet is $10.
The fentanyl transdermal patch, known by the brand name Duragesic, is a common opioid formulation used to treat chronic pain, most commonly in cancer patients. However, these patches that look like a square bandage have abuse potential and addicts commonly eat these patches to get an intense and quick high. These “suicide packets” are sold on the street for approximately $10 to $100 per patch, depending on the dose, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Even drugs that don’t normally have significant abuse potential, such as quetiapine, an antipsychotic drug most commonly known as Seroquel, are being sold on the street in combination with other substances. A “Q-ball” is a combination of quetiapine and cocaine in intravenous form. A“Maq ball” is a combination of marijuana and quetiapine smoked. The list of options is ongoing.
Dangerous additives and delivery methods
The cocaine supplied on the streets is mixed with phenacetin, a chemical which can cause cancer or serious kidney damage, according to “Cancer Chemical in Street Cocaine” released by the BBC News in 2006. The chemical is among a series of dangerous mixers increasingly used by dealers to “cut” street drugs to maximize profits.
Illicit drugs are commonly contaminated using substances that simply add bulk, such as sugars in heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.
Desomorphine, commonly known as “krokodil,” is a cheap derivative of codeine that’s mixed with gasoline, oil, ethanol alcohol or paint thinner. Addicts inject the drug, which causes dark, scaly patches of dead and decaying skin at the injection site, also known as “crocodile” skin.
“Skin popping” is a common term known in the medical world. The term refers to when addicts inject drugs into their subcutaneous tissue, because their veins are completely destroyed. This injection method causes skin infections and can have cosmetically detrimental effects.
Cost to society
Not only are drugs themselves a hot commodity on the street, but popular brands of household items are used to purchase them. According to an article by the New York Times titled “Suds for Drugs,” grocery stores throughout the country were losing $10,000 to $15,000 a month because people were stealing Tide detergent to trade it for drugs on the street. According to the article, “Tide bottles have become ad hoc street currency, with a 150-ounce bottle going for either $5 cash or $10 worth of weed or crack cocaine. On certain corners, the detergent has earned a new nickname: ‘Liquid gold.’”
According to “The Pros and Cons of Drug Legalization” released by the International Business Times, if illegal drugs in the U.S.were taxed at rates comparable to tax rates on alcohol and tobacco, they would yield $46.7 billion in tax revenue. The street drug revolution has caused an increase in imprisonments, violence, homelessness, deaths, hospitalizations and national debt. It is an ongoing phenomenon that will most likely not stop because drug addicts will go to any extreme to get their fix; whether it be robotripping on cough syrup, sniffing glue or rolling with “molly.”
If you know anyone who abuses homemade substances, prescription medications or synthetic drugs, it is extremely important that the individual seek medical and psychological help. Sovereign Health Group provides the highest quality care in addiction, dual diagnosis and mental health treatment programs. For further information, please call us today.