Cocaine Cut with Fentanyl – A New Hybrid Drug to Hit the Streets

Cocaine with black scull in the middle.

If you’ve kept your ear to the ground on the drug crisis as it currently stands, you’ve likely heard the term “synthetic drugs” several times in the last year or two—particularly “synthetic opioids.” But what are synthetic opioids?

Synthetic opioids are any drug user’s worst nightmare, the last thing that any family member of a drug addict would want their addicted loved one to come into contact with. This is because synthetic opioids are more likely to kill a user than non-synthetic opioids are.

According to the Washington Post, there were more than seventy-two thousand drug overdose deaths in 2017. According to the report, 30,000 of those overdose deaths occurred from a synthetic opioid, i.e., any kind of drug which had been mixed with an opioid. And what was the most commonly found opioid in these 30,000 deaths? Fentanyl.

A Profitable Avenue for Drug Dealers

Mixing a drug with fentanyl means big profits for drug dealers. A drug dealer, the crime world’s number one entrepreneur, is always looking for a way to maximize profits. What better way to do so than to take already addictive drugs and make them even more addictive?

Sorting bags with drugs.

This is a trend we have seen increase significantly in the last several years. Now, synthetic, hybrid drugs that act as mystery boxes of different substances are the most desirable drugs on the streets, even though addicts have no way of knowing what’s really in the drugs they are taking.

USA Today did a feature on the first appearances of cocaine cut with fentanyl in Tennessee, and the kinds of risks that such a drug poses to a state which has already been ravaged by an opioid prescription drug epidemic.

According to the article, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation detected 12 samples of fentanyl in illicit drugs in 2013. But in 2017, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation detected fentanyl and its variations in 320 samples. This can only mean one thing, which is that the trend of slicing fentanyl into street drugs is moving southwest from the northeastern seaboard where the problem began.

What Makes Cocaine So Dangerous?

The best way to understand the danger behind hybrid, synthetic drugs is to examine the risk potentials of each drug individually and then to add those risk factors together. In the case of cocaine, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) details the risk factors of this drug quite well, showing us that by itself cocaine can cause overdoses and can be quite deadly.

“Death from overdose can occur on the first use of cocaine or unexpectedly thereafter. Some of the most frequent and severe health consequences of overdose are irregular heart rhythm, heart attacks, seizures, and strokes.…”

According to NIDA, “Death from overdose can occur on the first use of cocaine or unexpectedly thereafter. Some of the most frequent and severe health consequences of overdose are irregular heart rhythm, heart attacks, seizures, and strokes. Other symptoms of cocaine overdose include difficulty breathing, high blood pressure, high body temperature, hallucinations, and extreme agitation or anxiety.”

What Makes Fentanyl So Dangerous?

Fentanyl is a man-made opioid drug, 10 times more potent than heroin. NIDA wrote cautionary words o fentanyl, saying that, “Fentanyl is a µ-opiod receptor agonist that is 80 times more potent than morphine in vivo (in a living organism). While fentanyl is available as a prescription —primarily used for anesthesia and treating post-surgical pain, and for the management of pain in opioid-tolerant patients—it is the illicitly manufactured versions that have been largely responsible for the tripling of overdose deaths related to synthetic opioids in just two years—from 3,105 in 2013 to 9,580 in 2015.”

Fentanyl is the “big hitter” of opioids, the leading killer, the primary culprit in opioid overdoses. So to hear that such a potent and life-threatening drug is now being mixed into cocaine, (a drug that most addicts erroneously think that they can use safely), this is bad news indeed.

What Happens When Cocaine and Fentanyl are Combined?

Addict looking straight

For years, drug dealers and drug makers have been slicing small amounts of fentanyl into heroin and other opioids. This process creates a super-addictive drug which causes users to come back to that dealer for more of the same. That is, of course, if the super opioid does not kill them through an overdose first.

But to mix fentanyl and cocaine together, on the other hand, had been a practice relatively unheard of until recently.

The big concern on cocaine mixed with fentanyl opioids is that cocaine, an already very addictive drug, will now have the added characteristic of being physically addictive. This means that such a drug will form a chemical dependence in those who take it.

For centuries people have been getting addicted to cocaine merely because the drug is habit-forming from a psychological and behavioral standpoint. But the drug does not form chemical dependencies—the one, saving grace which served to help users in their efforts to get off of the drug.

But now, taking what might be the world’s most addictive drug and adding a chemical dependency factor gives you a drug that combines the most terrible features of two of the planet’s most dangerous drugs. This is the severity of cocaine that’s been laced with fentanyl.

Keeping Our Family Members and Loved Ones Safe from Synthetic Drugs

Mother talking with daughter.

We have to keep our families safe from drug use, now more so than perhaps ever before. The simple truth of the matter is that the drugs of today are getting more lethal than they once were. Our parents’ generation may have used drugs recreationally and gotten off more or less scot-free, but the recreational drug use scene of today is now a lethal drug use scene.

We need to educate our family members and loved ones about the condition of drug addiction in the States today and make sure that those close to us know to never try drugs, not even just once.

We need to ensure that our communities are protected, too. We can do this by supporting law enforcement, by organizing community action against drug use, by raising awareness about the drug problem, by getting drug education into schools, etc.

Finally, we need to help those who are currently addicted, no matter how bad their habits have gotten. We need to insist that those in our communities who suffer from addiction problems get into treatment, and we need to assist them in finding and entering such treatment.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.