The handout comes at a time when state officials say the mixture of cocaine and fentanyl is a rising concern, with Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford saying in March that “heroin no longer is the major ingredient with fentanyl. It’s cocaine now.”
Preliminary statistics from the Opioid Operational Command Center found that 884 people died of cocaine overdoses in 2018, an increase of 200 over 2017.
And cocaine mixed with fentanyl attributed to nearly 90 percent of those deaths, as the center says 784 people died last year due to the mixture.
A Johns Hopkins University study released late last year found that, out of 335 admitted heroin and cocaine users from Baltimore, Boston and Providence, R.I., 84 percent said they were concerned about their drugs having fentanyl.
Angel Traynor, founder of the Serenity Sistas recovery program in Anne Arundel County, said earlier this month that some of her clients who claimed to have quit heroin in favor of cocaine to avoid fentanyl are shocked to find they’re still testing positive for fentanyl in urinalysis tests.
Cocaine mixed with heroin is sold illegally on the street as a drug cocktail known as a speedball. Since cocaine, heroin and fentanyl are all white powders, the much more powerful opioid could be mixed into speedball without the user knowing.
Dr. Andrew Stolbach, a medical toxicologist and emergency physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital, said it’s a problem unique to the influx of fentanyl as he’d “never heard of people secretly spiking cocaine with heroin.”
Baltimore Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings introduced legislation Wednesday to provide $100 billion in new funding to tackle the nation’s opioid epidemic that has produced a staggering number of overdose deaths.
He attributed the spiking overdoses to fentanyl’s potency.
Illegal fentanyl, mostly manufactured in China and shipped covertly into the United States, is 50 times more potent than heroin, which makes creating a fatal mixture that much easier, especially for a population in which some users might do only cocaine and not have the natural tolerance for opioids that comes with regular heroin use.