Drugs are more dangerous when they’re illegal
Speaking of impurities, compounds like fentanyl – which is around 10 times stronger than heroin – are often mixed in with street drugs, yet because dealers don’t tend to disclose the ingredients of their merchandise, users are often totally unaware of what they are actually taking. According to David Nutt, director of the Neuropsychopharmacology Unit in the Division of Brain Sciences at Imperial College London and former Chair of the British government’s Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs, the war on drugs itself is largely responsible for the prevalence of these impurities.
For example, a global crackdown on some of the key ingredients used to produce ecstasy tablets between 2000 and 2010 caused underground manufacturers to alter their methods slightly, resulting in the sale of pills that contained a compound called PMA instead of MDMA. Although virtually identical in chemical structure, the accepted safe dosage of MDMA is often lethal when substituted for PMA.
Impurities are far from the only danger that is increased by the war on drugs. A report released earlier this year in the Lancet provided strong evidence that global bans on drug use are proliferating the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C, as addicts are unable to obtain clean syringes and are therefore often forced to share needles. According to the report, around a third of new HIV transmissions outside of sub-Saharan Africa are currently caused by unsafe injection.
Unsafe drug injection is a major driver of global HIV infections. PrinceOfLove/Shutterstock