Manufacturing of more potent drugs on rise

12-22-2017 Posted in Addiction

According to a study led by Mahmoud A. ElSohly, a professor of pharmaceutics at the University of Mississippi, marijuana is stronger now than it was 20 years ago. The researchers tested around 38,681 samples of illegal marijuana seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the United States over a 20-year period.

They found that the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient of marijuana, increased from about 4 percent in 1995 to around 12 percent in 2014. On the contrary, the level of cannabidiol (CBD), beneficial for health, declined from around 0.28 percent in 2001 to less than 0.15 percent in 2014. The samples of marijuana in Colorado were found to have as much as 30 percent of THC, which is significantly higher than only 10 percent of THC found 30 years ago.

A similar trend is also palpable for illicit drugs, as well some legal drugs. This trend is quiet disquieting considering the opioid epidemic that has claimed an unprecedented number of lives till date and continues to do so. By beating car crashes, suicide, homicide and guns, drug poisoning has emerged as the leading cause of injury deaths in the U.S.

A decade ago, methamphetamine (meth) was available in the U.S. at 39 percent purity per gram. However, it is now manufactured at Mexican ‘super labs’ and sold alongside the extremely dangerous synthetic opioid fentanyl and powerful elephant tranquilizer carfentanil. As fentanyl is increasingly being cut into traditional drugs of abuse, such as heroin and meth, and users are not even aware of this fact, it has emerged as a serious public health risk. Here’s a glimpse of the current potency levels of some of the drugs in the illegal market:


Although fentanyl is a prescription drug used as a painkiller and anesthetic in clinical settings, it is frequently used to cut into other drugs or pills. As it is cheaper and easier to produce than heroin, it is complicated to cut fentanyl into other drugs. Hence, it is often sold deceptively as heroin or oxycodone pills.

Most of the fentanyl in the U.S. illegal market comes either from Mexican cartel labs or from China. Being already adulterated by the cartels, the purity of fentanyl from Mexico has been found to be typically 4 to 6 percent. On the contrary, the purity level of fentanyl from China is generally 90 percent or higher. A wholesale kilogram of fentanyl would cost about $31,000 near Mexico’s borders and prices increase as one goes further from the border.


The primary source of heroin for the U.S. is Mexico. The purity of heroin at 35 percent in 2015 in San Diego County has been steadily rising upward. The lab tests claim that Mexican powder heroin is extremely pure. With growing non-preference for black tar heroin due to the menace of opioid epidemic, users now want something that is convenient to use and pretty in appearance. Hence, refined white or brown powder heroin is preferred. ‘China White’ is a designer drug that is made from fentanyl or a stronger derivative of fentanyl.


The entire practice of mixing cocaine with heroin, also known as ‘speedballing,’ has become quite popular to balance the stimulant and depressant effects of both drugs.  The average purity of a gram of cocaine increased to 56 percent despite remaining relatively stable at 45 to 49 percent for the past several years. Moreover, the prices have since then dropped to $165 per gram.

Take effective measures to stay away from drugs

While potency of a drug is the dosage needed to affect a person, purity is the amount of the original drug in a sample. They are not one and the same thing as a pure drug can be safer than an impure drug if the potency of the former is lower than the latter. With restrictions imposed on the prescription and dispensation of opioids, another effective measure required is taking stringent measures against illegal drug manufacturing labs to ensure safety and security of all.

If you or your loved one is afflicted with drug addiction, it is imperative to seek professional help. The 24/7 Drug Addiction Helpline assists in accessing the best inpatient drug abuse treatment centers in the U.S. that specializes in delivering evidence-based intervention plans. Call our 24/7 helpline number 866-403-5607 or chat online with our medical advisers to know more about the outpatient drug abuse treatment centers.

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