One in ten Americans uses illicit drugs, including 5 million coke users and 1.4 million meth users.
Fentanyl is making many of them scared.
Heroin is often cut with fentanyl, a super-strong heroin-ish drug that's cheap, powerful, and easy to overdose and die on. It's been killing thousands: nearly 30,000 people died of fentanyl-related overdoses in 2017.
No one knows why fentanyl is being mixed in. The two leading theories are: 1) fentanyl feels good, so why wouldn't all drug users want some? And 2) dealers are just sloppy, and fentanyl is mixed in by accident.
A key question has been: how often is fentanyl ending up in other drugs. Fear is out there. The cops are warning folks. I've heard from users and harm reduction experts that as many as a third of all drug baggies have traces of fent.
But what does the hard data say?
The numbers aren't close to one-third. But they're higher than a user would like.
Fentanyl is showing up in somewhere between 2 and 7 percent of drug samples, according to various reports from authorities.
In New York, for example, for the first three months of 2019, fentanyl was found in about 4 percent of samples of methamphetamine and ketamine, and about 2 percent of cocaine.
We know the New York data because Vice News recently sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the NYPD, asking how often seized drugs had fentanyl.
While 2 to 4 percent is pretty low, the numbers are rising quickly. In 2016, only half a percent of seized coke and meth samples in New York had fentanyl. (Ketamine-fentanyl combination was already at 3.3 percent.)
The numbers are bigger other places. In New England, the DEA says that, in 2017, 7 percent of cocaine samples had fentanyl in them. That number has likely risen by now. It was only 3 percent in 2016.
In Pennsylvania, the DEA found only 1 percent of cocaine samples had fentanyl. (They didn't look at ketamine or meth.)
The data doesn't say how much fentanyl was in these drugs. Just traces? Enough to feel? Enough to die on?
We're not sure. The fentanyl-cocaine combo is rising other places, including Florida, the DEA has said. And across the country,overdoses involving both cocaine and fentanyl rose from 180 in 2012 to more than 4,000 in 2016, Vice reports. These hard numbers do suggest that if you're using meth or coke or ketamine, check your baggies: somewhere between 1-in-50 and 1-in-14 has fent in it.
A reminder: fentanyl test strips are cheap.