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Addiction Behavior Glossary Mortality

The Difference Between Drug Mixing and Drug Cutting

1 month, 2 weeks ago

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Posted on Aug 22, 2022, 4 p.m.

Drug cutting is among the most dangerous issues in the illicit drug market today. However, not everyone understands what this term means. In fact, because drug cutting sounds so similar to drug mixing, people may think they mean the same thing. Here’s how these terms differ and what makes drug cutting a dangerous trend.

Intentional Mixing

Drug cutting is a dangerous practice in widespread use today. It is responsible for a record number of overdoses and the highest annual death rate for drug use. But how has this practice become so widespread, and what makes it different from the more common practice of drug mixing? To answer this, we should begin by understanding what drug mixing is. In its simplest definition, drug mixing refers to mixing two or more drugs together to intensify their effects. This can either include a mixture of different drug types or varieties of the same drug type. 

For example, a speedball is a mixture of an opioid and a stimulant, commonly heroin and cocaine, to achieve an intense high that also cancels out the negative side effects. This is a common practice for recreational drug users. However, the gamble of mixing different drugs together can result in a terrible outcome. At best, things can get out of hand when the drugs don’t mix well together, resulting in negative side effects of each drug simultaneously. More often, the result is an overdose, incapacitation, or death

When we think about the sad announcement of public figures such as Elvis, Heath Ledger, and Michael Jackson, who struggled with drug abuse and were found dead from an overdose, autopsy reports often reveal that their overdose was not due to one specific drug by itself, but rather a variety of drug mixtures that proved to be more than their bodies could handle.

Unintentional Mixing 

Drug mixing is not limited to those who use drugs recreationally, however. Since it is defined as the mixture of various drug substances (polysubstance use), almost anyone can practice drug mixing. The simplest example is if someone is prescribed drugs such as benzodiazepines for anxiety, sedatives for insomnia, or opioids for chronic pain. When these powerful drugs are in our systems, or if we’re simply used to using them for a long time, we might not think that drinking a beer or a glass of wine is a big deal. Or we might not think about the impact of mixing prescription drugs in our bodies simultaneously. However, these are examples of drug mixing, and we can quickly find ourselves experiencing various dangers.

Unfortunately, this is not the only example of unintentional mixing. It is, however, where drug cutting comes into the equation. Drug cutting is not necessarily a new practice in the illicit drug world. There was a time when buyers could request “upgraded’ versions of their drug of choice. Dealers might lace marijuana with cocaine or cocaine with heroin to create a more unique drug use experience. However, not all dealers are transparent about the drugs they sell. Instead of offering ‘upgraded” versions of a particular drug for a hefty fee, dealers will often cut corners and save on drug production and smuggling costs by participating in false advertisements.  

This is what drug cutting is all about. Comically, marijuana dealers might attempt to sell ground-up weed, only to save on their supply by cutting the dosage with equal parts of oregano. This might frustrate buyers, but other examples can prove much more deadly. Meth production is a notorious example of this. Since meth is regularly made with household products and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, buying meth on the street is never guaranteed to have the same additives or the same potency. Meth buyers have no idea what toxic substances they’re taking when using meth, even if a dealer insists it is “pure.” 

Worst of all, fentanyl has taken a front seat in the drug-cutting industry. Unlike previous days when people could reasonably expect to receive their intended drug of choice from a dealer, today, lethal doses of fentanyl are showing up in all kinds of drugs, from heroin to hydrocodone to even marijuana. Most buyers have no intention of buying fentanyl and no idea that their drug purchase is cut with lethal amounts of the powerful opioid. There have been countless reports nationwide addressing the increased risk of fentanyl showing up in all varieties of street drugs. The safest strategy is to assume that fentanyl is present in any illicit substance. 

Education: A Start, Not a Solution

The reason why dealers are doing this is not altogether clear. Still, since fentanyl is cheap, potent, and highly addictive, it is a great drug of choice to guarantee business from addicted customers. However, the lethal amounts of fentanyl are killing these same customers, which shows why everyone loses in this latest trend. 

Understanding the difference between drug mixing and drug cutting is important, but we’ve also seen how the dangers of illicit drug use are two sides of the same coin. Since drug cutting has now shown up in all places, anyone who uses illicit drugs is at risk. For this reason, we not only need to learn about these dangers, but we need to ensure that we and those around us get the professional help we need to get out of the illicit drug market altogether if we are using these substances.

This article was written for WHN by Kevin Morris from the Delphi Behavioral Health Group, a dedicated family of facilities committed to offering individualized treatment for all levels of addiction working to treat it at its core to provide those suffering with the tools to start a journey of long-lasting recovery.

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine.

Content may be edited for style and length.

Materials provided by:

Delphi Health Group. (n.d.). Understanding Drug Cutting – What Is It and Why Does it Happen? Retrieved https://delphihealthgroup.com/drug-cutting/

Maine Wire. (2022, April 7). Fentanyl Now the Leading Cause of Death for Adults Ages 18 to 45. Retrieved https://www.themainewire.com/2022/04/fentanyl-now-the-leading-cause-of-death-for-adults-ages-18-to-45/

Delphi Health Group. (n.d.). The ‘Speedball’: Risks of Mixing Heroin and Cocaine. Retrieved https://delphihealthgroup.com/opioids/heroin/and-cocaine/

FDA. (2017, Sep 20). FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA warns about serious risks and death when combining opioid pain or cough medicines with benzodiazepines; requires its strongest warning. Retrieved https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-drug-safety-communication-fda-warns-about-serious-risks-and-death-when-combining-opioid-pain-or

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NIH. (2020 June). Is it safe to use prescription drugs in combination with other medications? Retrieved https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/misuse-prescription-drugs/it-safe-to-use-prescription-drugs-in-combination-other-medications

Leader-Post. (2018 Jul 30). What can marijuana be laced with and how to recognize laced weed? Retrieved https://leaderpost.com/cannabis-health/what-can-marijuana-be-laced-with-and-how-to-recognize-laced-weed

Delphi Health Group. (n.d.). Meth Addiction Signs and Treatment. Retrieved https://delphihealthgroup.com/stimulants/methamphetamine/

Delphi Health Group. (n.d.). Fentanyl Addiction: What Side Effects Should You Know About? Retrieved https://delphihealthgroup.com/opioids/fentanyl/

Delphi Health Group. (n.d.). What Amount of Fentanyl Causes an Overdose? (Plus Treatment Help) Retrieved https://delphihealthgroup.com/opioids/fentanyl/overdose

DEA. (n.d). Fentanyl Fact Sheet. Retrieved https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/fentanyl



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