Dr. Michael Wensinger, a staff psychiatrist at the Washington University School of Medicine told Fox News on Sunday that there has been an increase in young patients presenting with symptoms consistent with fentanyl use after ingesting cannabis.
“In my clinical practice and among some of my peers, we’re seeing more kids reporting they thought they were just smoking marijuana, when drug screens show fentanyl – and they would have toxicological, or medical side effects consistent with that,” he told Fox News.
Wenzinger believes the issue is a recent phenomenon with police claiming that fentanyl laced cannabis has shown up in Alabama, Illinois, Louisiana and New York.
He also noted that cannabis has become more potent in recent years and that fentanyl lacings could worsen outcomes for users.
Last year, 33-year-old Andrew Young passed away after consuming cannabis laced with fentanyl.
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His mother, Paula Young told 12 News that “He did not know that fentanyl was in his marijuana,” adding that her son had purchased the drug from someone he knew.
“I know parents that I now am associated with, that their children passed away from it being in their cocaine, in their meth, in marijuana like my son,” she added.
Following her son’s death, Paula Young launched a nonprofit, Achieve Greatness, which helps raise fentanyl awareness and battle the stigma associated with fentanyl deaths.
- Fentanyl Overdoses More Than Tripled Over Five Years in the United States
- 19-Year-old Charged After Allegedly Selling Fentanyl-laced Counterfeit Prescription Drugs
- Thousands of ‘Rainbow Fentanyl’ Pills Seized by US Customs
No longer a myth
Previously, it was widely argued that cannabis laced with fentanyl was only a myth, driven by inaccurate social media posts.
“Several media reports now also claim that drug dealers lace cannabis with fentanyl. Very little evidence supports this claim,” wrote Alyssa Peckham of Medical News Today in February this year.
However, she does cite a 2020 case report where a 50-year-old man seeking treatment for opioid use continued to test positive for fentanyl despite claiming to only use cannabis.
“This suggests he may have been using fentanyl-laced cannabis. When he stopped using cannabis, his urine stopped testing positive for fentanyl,” she wrote.
In a March 2022 report by Addictions.com the outlet unequivocally argued that “Yes, marijuana laced with fentanyl is causing fatal overdoses.”
After reviving an overdose patient, who had smoked cannabis, with Narcan, Vermont police found a “frightening amount” of fentanyl mixed in with the drug.
Authorities in Connecticut believe that 40 drug overdoses in the state were as a result of fentanyl laced cannabis.
“Officials have also identified fentanyl-laced cannabis in New York. And in Michigan, eight suspected cases of marijuana laced with fentanyl, occurring between June and November 2021, have been identified,” Addictions.com claims.
Cross-contamination possibly to blame
Madeline Hillard, an ambulance driver and CEO of Trojan Awareness Combating Overdose (TACO) believes cross-contamination, when the drugs are being packaged, may be why fentanyl is ending up in cannabis.
“The marijuana is being divided up for packaging and selling on the same table that fentanyl was previously being packaged on, and the table, or the surface that all that was happening on, was not adequately sanitized,” Hilliard told Addictions.com.
Since a lethal dose of fentanyl can be as small as two grains of sand, cross-contamination could be serving cannabis users with a lethal mixture.
Brian Foley, assistant to the Commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection has another theory.
He told Addictions.com, “Narcotics dealers say adding fentanyl keeps them competitive with the growing legalized medical and commercial marijuana market. It’s so easy to get, add in the addiction factor, and it just keeps people coming to that same dealer.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are the primary cause of overdose deaths in the United States, with an estimated 100,000 Americans losing their lives to the drug each year.