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How Dangerous Is Marijuana When Laced with Another Drug?

Many individuals who are suffering from substance use disorders struggle with multiple substances.

This polydrug abuse may increase the risk of negative effects because of how drugs can interact in the body. However, individuals may intentionally mix drugs because they are seeking different effects than either drug alone would provide, they are trying to enhance a drug’s effects, or they are trying to mitigate withdrawal symptoms.

Lacing is when one drug is added to another. This may be done secretly by drug dealers in order to bulk up drugs with less expensive fillers or other drugs so they can increase their profits or in order to make the drug more addictive so their customers keep coming back for more. Some combinations are desirable and users will intentionally seek out those combinations or will combine the drugs on their own.

Marijuana and Laced Drugs

Marijuana, on its own, can produce an assortment of effects, and individuals can have drastically different experiences. For many users, it causes relaxed feelings and euphoria. Laughter, increased sensory perception, changed time perception, and appetite increases are also common. However, marijuana can also cause paranoia, anxiety, fear, panic, or even acute psychosis.

Lacing marijuana with other drugs can alter its effects. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR), marijuana may be laced by dealers and sold to unsuspecting customers, or individual users may lace their own marijuana. It can be very dangerous to combine marijuana with other drugs, and if a person obtains marijuana from an illicit source, they can not be sure that the marijuana does not contain other substances.

Drugs that May be Added to Marijuana

Marijuana may be laced with one or more drugs, such as:

  • Stimulants: Cocaine or crack is sometimes sprinkled into marijuana blunts or joints, combining a stimulant and a depressant. Some may think the conflicting effects make it safer, but it is actually very dangerous and may lead to overdosing.
  • Opioids: Powdered opioids are sometimes sprinkled on marijuana to be smoked through a pipe. Using opioids can be very dangerous: 47,600 drug overdose deaths in 2017 involved opioids.
  • Hallucinogens: Some individuals lace their marijuana with phencyclidine (PCP) or dip a joint in formaldehyde or embalming fluid. These additions can cause euphoria, hallucinations, rage, and/or panic. Furthermore, formaldehyde (which is also typically present in embalming fluid) is a carcinogen. It is associated with lung and nasal cancer and may also be connected to leukemia and brain cancer. Smoking marijuana combined with formaldehyde or PCP may cause lung injuries. Thus, using marijuana laced with a hallucinogen can be very dangerous, both in the short term and long term.

Effects and Dangers of Laced Marijuana

Lacing marijuana can cause unintended, serious harm. It may lead to overdose, especially if a user does not know the marijuana is laced with another drug. Furthermore, reacting negatively to some drugs may be more likely if the person is only expecting to feel the effects of marijuana.

Getting Help for Polydrug Abuse

Using multiple drugs can be very dangerous, especially if the user is unaware of some of the drugs being used. It can also make diagnosis and treatment of substance use disorders and potential comorbid mental illnesses more complex.

If you are struggling with marijuana use, especially if you use other substances as well, you should contact a health care professional. You may be suffering from one or multiple substance use disorders. There are effective treatments that can help individuals struggling with substance use disorders learn how to manage their illnesses and avoid relapse.