It is virtually impossible to find 100% pure heroin sold on the streets today.
This is because it is now incredibly common for street heroin drug dealers to supplement, or “cut”, their product with additional substance.
They do this so they can sell more heroin for less expense and a greater profit. Heroin is a highly addictive drug with severe side effects — adding cutting agents can increase the risks associated with heroin use and addiction.
What Is A Heroin Cutting Agent?
A cutting agent in heroin is any substance that is added to the heroin to make it appear as if there is more product, while in fact the heroin has actually been diluted.
Because heroin is typically found in white powder form, it is somewhat easy to add similar-looking adulterants.
Cutting agents do not always necessarily dilute the heroin and some in fact have the opposite effect. In these instances, the cutting agents actually make the effects of the heroin longer-lasting, faster-acting, or more potent.
Common Substances Used As Cutting Agents
The following are some of the most commonly used cutting agents found in heroin today.
Other Illicit Drugs
Heroin can be mixed with other illicit drugs, or street drugs, most commonly cocaine and fentanyl.
Cocaine is typically mixed with heroin because it is known to increase the stimulating effects of heroin.
Fentanyl is a prescription painkiller that is mixed with heroin to increase its potency, as it is up to 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.
Bulking agents are agents that are used to increase the bulk, or amount of the heroin, but do not change its effects. These are typically different foods or household items that look similar to heroin in appearance.
Common heroin bulking agents include:
- baking soda
- powdered milk
- baby powder
- laundry detergent
- rat poison
Analgesic pain-relievers come in pill forms that can then be crushed up and mixed with heroin. The analgesic pain-reliever that is most commonly cut with heroin is aspirin.
Aspirin is an ideal cutting agent for dealers because it is very cheap and easy to buy over-the-counter, and there are no limits on how much can be bought. It also looks just like heroin and has few side effects.
Lidocaine comes in numerous forms and is used as a painkiller and numbing agent. It can be mixed with heroin undetected because it looks the same when in powder form and does not add any flavor.
Caffeine pills are easily crushed up and mixed with heroin to be sold on the street. This is beneficial to dealers because caffeine is inexpensive and sold over-the-counter, thus very easy to obtain.
Heroin is also frequently cut with caffeine because caffeine does not dilute the effects of heroin the way some other cutting agents do, and can in fact make the high stronger and kick in faster.
Why Heroin Impurities Can Be Dangerous
While heroin is dangerous to use by itself, adding contaminants or diluents to it only makes it more dangerous and overdose death more likely.
Initially, it might seem as though a diluted product could potentially be a safer product, and in some cases this could be true.
However, some cutting agents were never designed for human consumption, such as rat poison and laundry detergent, and are in fact poisonous.
The biggest danger with adding cutting agents to heroin is that the consumer never quite knows what they are getting or how much of it they are getting. They may take a stronger dose than they are used to, resulting in a heroin overdose.
It is not uncommon for heroin users to experience an opioid overdose because they did not know they were actually using fentanyl or another illicit drug.
Treatment Options For Heroin Use
At Bedrock Recovery Center, we understand how difficult it can be when you or a loved one are battling heroin addiction or any other substance use disorder.
Recovery from substance abuse is possible, and your mental health and behavioral health are important.
Whether you simply have questions about alcohol or drug abuse or you are ready to start heroin addiction treatment as soon as possible, please reach out to our treatment specialists today.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/heroin/index.html
- National Institute on Drug Abuse https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin
- United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/heroin