Most drugs that we know today have been around for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. And yet even with such an established history, they are constantly being changed and modified. And according to the DEA, not in a good way.
A recent report from the Drug Enforcement Agency claims that heroin, meth and marijuana have all gotten stronger and more potent in recent years. They found that many dealers are now adding fentanyl, a powerful opioid, into their heroin products to make it more deadly. For meth, they compared the drug's D-isomer, the compound that causes psychoactive effects, and the L-isomer, which does not. In 2016, meth that the DEA obtained was 90 percent D-isomer versus only 76 percent in 2011. And with marijuana, the DEA says cannabis seized in 1995 had an average THC content of 4 percent. That number grew to 11 percent in 2015.
Now, obviously one of these findings is less important than the other. Marijuana THC levels becoming higher over two decades isn't going to cause the problems that stronger meth and heroin would. It just means a few more stoners might've had a bad trip. Whereas cutting heroin with fentanyl means more people are overdosing and dying while using the drug.
RAND Corporation drug-policy researcher Rosalie Pacula told the Los Angeles Times that the reason these drugs are becoming more popular is competition, particularly from opioids. Americans today have far more access to substances to get them high than ever before, which means drug traffickers and dealers need to increase their potency to stay relevant and continue attracting clients. After all, if you can just go to a doctor for a prescription of a powerful painkiller, why would you need to take the risk of going to your dealer if you're not getting a substantially different product?
Now many people would argue that legalizing a drug that could offer many of the same effects that heroin, meth and opioids do without the risk of overdose, addiction and other harmful side effects would mean people would use those others less. But we'll see if the DEA ever makes that conclusion.
(h/t Pacific Standard)