Illicit drug use is on the rise. A 2014 study found that over 27 million people in the U.S. over the age of 12 had used illegal drugs at least once. That means 1 in every 10 Americans have used illicit drugs. With the use of drugs being so high in American, one has to wonder where are they coming from; and with such a high demand for product are they pure? The short answer is no. The drugs flooding the streets, nightclubs and back alleys are overwhelmingly tainted with adulterants. These dangerous chemicals are mixed with drugs to stretch the product and therefore, generate more money, but they are killing drug users at an alarming rate.

Drug users often have idea or way to find out:

  • How the drug was produced
  • If any adulterants were added or if it was mixed with something else
  • The environment where it was produced, which may contain dangerous chemicals
  • Whether or not the drug was contaminated

If a drug is cut or tainted with another chemical, the effects might not be as strong. This causes the user to take more and more to get the desired effect, but with harmful adulterants in the drug the result can be deadly.  

Ecstasy (MDMA)

The popular drug “Molly” is marketed as pure ecstasy (MDMA). However, a 2016 study done in New York City found that nearly half of the MDMA consumed was tainted. Hair samples were taken from participants and 49% tested positive for butylone and 10% for methylone, which are bother synthetic cathinones or “bath salts.” None of the participants reported ever using bath salts, so all the adulterants came from the MDMA/Molly/ecstasy. These drugs may also contain PMMA or PMA (paramethoxymethamphetamine): an illegal psychoactive chemical that can cause death in many cases.


The deadliest ingredient in adulterated heroin is fentanyl. Knows as the “hidden killer,” fentanyl is an extremely powerful opioid: 80-100 times more powerful than morphine and 25-30 times more powerful than heroin. Law enforcement has found many fentanyl related drug cases stemming from drugs brought in by foreign drug cartels.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in Florida, Maryland, Maines, Ohio, Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, public health departments have reported dramatic increases in fentanyl-related seizures and deaths. In 2013, there were 92 unintentional deaths involving fentanyl in Ohio. By 2014, that number rose to 514, representing a nearly 500% increase. In 2016, NIDA issued a warning because of face medications disguised as Norco, Percocet, and Xanax actually containing fentanyl.

Other dangerous adulterants added to heroin can include:

Quinine: originally used as an antimalarial medication, it mimics the rush of injecting heroin, but can cause renal failure and visual disturbances

Phenobarbital: a powerful barbiturate sedative that can cause respiratory failure

Scopolamine: a medication used to treat motion sickness that can cause sleepiness and euphoria and is not easily detected

Clenbuterol: a decongestant that cause numerous neural, cardiovascular and thyroid toxicities in high doses


Prescription Medications

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 1% of prescription medications in developed countries are fake. Purchasing prescription medications online has contributed to the rise in fake medication. Both the FDA and law enforcement agencies warn against buying prescription drugs online or from other countries. The FDA has reported cases where medications like Xanax, Ambien and Lexapro were ordered and the recipients received powerful anti-psychotic medications, leading to hospitalization. For tips for safely ordering prescription medication online read this list of guidelines.  


If you or a loved one are struggling with drug addiction, Rock Recovery Center in West Palm Beach, Florida can help with next steps. Call our 24-hour helpline or chat live with us now.