On the street, however, I’ve yet to cross paths with cannabis or any other drugs that actually are adulterated with fentanyl — outside of heroin and other illicit opioids, of course.
I have no personal experience with meth (drug nerds like me might use its full name, methamphetamine). However, I do have ties to people whose drug of choice is meth.
Earlier today, I talked to a fellow long-term sufferer of substance use disorder and resident of Northwest Tennessee (NWTN) who shared with me the fact that multiple major sources of meth here in NWTN are routinely adulterated with fentanyl. He, whose drug of choice is meth, also provided his take on why this is.
For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to refer to my friend as Jonah, which is not his real name.
What’s the Purpose of This Article?
As you may know, Northwest Tennessee is unarguably one of the most underserved regions throughout the Volunteer State. We are more far away from major cities than any other part of Tennessee — except for Southern Middle Tennessee, where I’m from — and have no organizations that practice harm reduction (See “An Aside” at the bottom of this article for an elaboration on this; in short, however, I’m not familiar with any persons, government agencies, organizations, or businesses that practice harm reduction in this area).
People like me need to report on the area-specific challenges that plague the Tennesseans who are most harmed by the opioid epidemic: long-term opioid users themselves, and now even people who don’t use opioids like the chronic meth consumer I mentioned earlier in the article. It’s important for me to do this because virtually nobody else in Northwest Tennessee is voicing the personal experiences of drug users to the world.
Note that this article is largely based on Jonah’s anecdotal report. This doesn’t mean that we should ignore what Jonah said just because he’s not a researcher, academician, medical professional, etc. — we should very much place weight on his report because few sources are voicing the anecdotes of long-term drug users living in Northwest Tennessee.
Also, Jonah’s insight may help the national harm reduction community better understand why non-opioids with complete opposite effects of opioids are adulterated with the ultra-powerful opioid fentanyl.
Typical Patterns of Methamphetamine Users
Yes, I understand that not all meth users go on days-long benders. However, many people whose primary drug of choice is methamphetamine do, in fact, use several days in a row and eschew sleep in the name of getting geeked out.
Oftentimes, chronic, daily meth consumers fail to drink and eat as much liquids and food as their bodies need.
These two factors — the lack of sleep and lack of proper nutrition — cause meth users’ bodies to feel tender or sore, if not outright hurt.
Here’s What Jonah Told Me
Jonah, who has been incarcerated for several months, shared with me earlier today that he was court-ordered to enter two rehabs. As a part of the two programs’ intake processes, Jonah was given a drug screen. Each time, he tested positive for both meth and opioids — specifically fentanyl — though Jonah never uses opioids.
Jonah hadn’t been drugged or anything like that. He is not prescribed any opioids from physicians. Put simply, there’s no way he could have had opioids in his system other than if the meth he had been using were adulterated with fentanyl.
And that’s what happened.
Here’s the Most Important Part of This Article
Why, exactly, does Jonah think he’d been using meth that was adulterated with fentanyl?
Remember just a few paragraphs ago when I identified the typical patterns of methamphetamine users and how those two things cause users’ bodies to hurt?
That’s why Jonah feels that fentanyl is actually purposefully included in the domestic illicit methamphetamine supply — to help ease the discomfort and pain associated with using meth for several days in a row.
This Was Unbeknownst to Me
Of course, I don’t know everything — but I at least know a few things about the real-life use of illicit drugs and harm reduction. With that being said, I had absolutely no idea about the reasons for including fentanyl in the domestic illicit meth supply before talking to Jonah earlier today.
I’m sure that dozens, if not hundreds — hopefully even thousands — of people have proposed this very reason to explain why participants in the North American illicit drug market adulterate methamphetamine with fentanyl. If you, the reader, haven’t yet heard of the idea that Jonah proposed to me earlier today, please consider its merits and share this idea with others. Or, if you think Jonah’s idea is nothing but a crock, reach out to me — my contact info can be found at the bottom of “Who Am I?”, another page on this website. I’m very much interested in hearing what you have to say about why fentanyl has been found in illicit drugs other than opioids here in North America.
What I Learned From Jonah Today
Before today, I thought there wasn’t any legitimate purpose to include fentanyl in batches of methamphetamine.
I thought the only reason why there had been instances of fentanyl found in the non-opioid portion of the domestic illicit drug supply in the United States — and Canada, for that matter — was because manufacturers and high-level distributors had not exercised due diligence in adulterating their inventory with other suitable active ingredients or inactive cuts, either one.
For example, assume Bob is a high-level distributor. He stocks and distributes both heroin and methamphetamine as part of the United States’ illicit drug market. Assume that Bob breaks down his heroin supply, adds fentanyl, and combines the two. Further, assume Bob used a credit card, gift card, or driver’s license in the adulteration process.
Now it’s time for Bob to adulterate his meth supply, though he forgets to clean the fentanyl from his card, coffee grinder, or other drug adulteration equipment.
Assume that Bob blows up (adds inactive cuts to bulk up his supply of meth) his meth with methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) — and for the record, I have no experience with adulterating any drugs, so I’m not sure if MSM is a high-quality, safe, inactive adulterant.
Anyways, so Bob breaks down his supply of meth into a fine powder, mixes in MSM, and then recrystallizes his supply to return his meth to shard form (I think that’s how meth is adulterated, but, then again, I have absolutely no experience in doing this; please forgive me if that’s not how this process works, but, either way, whether this is the or a common way meth is cut, it doesn’t have any bearing on my example).
Although Bob might not care about keeping fentanyl out of his meth supply, there’s still fentanyl in his batch of meth now as a direct result of being careless.
This example was the only reason I could come up with to explain why non-opioid drugs on the domestic illicit drug market ever tested positive for fentanyl.
Putting It All Together
I’m glad I ran into Jonah earlier today and even more glad that he shared his ideas with me.
Jonah isn’t a genius and neither am I. He may very well be wrong. He may very well have hit the nail on the head. I encourage you to take this article with a grain of salt and not take it as fact, just as you should with all information — not just harm reduction stuff, but all types of information — you come across, whether a long-term drug user such as myself or Jonah with lots of real-world experience, an academician with limited real-world experience, a social services professional, or someone else presents it to you.
I think both the reasons I presented in this article are valid as to why fentanyl is included in non-opioid drugs on the American illicit drug market.
However, I’m sure there is at least one other valid, legitimate reason explaining why fentanyl has been reportedly found in illicit non-opioid drugs here in the United States. I’m more than open to hearing your suggestions — if you have any suggestions as to why fentanyl appears in drugs other than opioids here in the United States, please contact me.
Other Reasons — Why Is Meth Cut With Fentanyl?
So far, we’ve mentioned two reasons as to why methamphetamine is sometimes found to be cut with fentanyl:
- To help ease the discomfort and pain associated with using meth for several days in a row.
- Dealers and manufacturers being careless in packaging, adulterating, and otherwise handling their product.
Some other reasons that might explain why methamphetamine is sometimes poisoned with fentanyl include:
- Opioids can “take the edge off” of stimulant highs, giving stimulant users a better experience with fewer unwanted side effects.
- Lastly, dealers and manufacturers may want to unknowingly “hook” meth users on a drug that causes physical dependence such as an opioid — fentanyl, in this case. In 2016, Chinese news outlet China Daily reported that the China Food and Drug Administration found that 35 restaurants had used opium poppies as seasoning, ostensibly to get customers hooked on their food (opium poppies naturally contain opioids such as morphine and codeine).
I’ve known Jonah for about a year. I met him through one of my now-former dealers. I offered to give him syringes, to which he obliged — since then, Jonah has played a role in community distribution here in Northwest Tennessee.
Jonah, a White, working-class male, is about 45 years old and has lived in or around his current county of residence since birth. He uses “weed, speed, and beer” — the phrase has a nice ring to me — and has for a very long time. Meth is his primary drug of choice.
Jonah works manual labor and did not complete high school, though he did get a GED. He has been in and out of jail throughout his adult life, though not because he’s a bad guy — he’s simply been slapped with criminal charges related to drug use several times.