State health officials are still trying to determine if marijuana laced with Fentanyl, which was found at the scene of an overdose in Plymouth, was mixed intentionally or by accident.
“It’s hard to say exactly what’s in the minds of the drug supplier,” said Susan Logan, supervising epidemiologist with the Department of Public Health Injury and Violence Surveillance Unit.
Marijuana seized in Plymouth last month remains the only lab-confirmed case in the state showing it had been mixed with Fentanyl – a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Fentanyl is commonly mixed with heroin in the illicit drug market and has been attributed to an increase in overdose deaths over the past several years because of its potency.
Though other parts of the country have seen overdose victims report only smoking marijuana, the case in Plymouth was possibly the first in the nation to confirm the drug – which was legalized in Connecticut over the summer – had been mixed with Fentanyl.
According to Logan, it still remains unclear whether this was the result of cross contamination – which could occur if Fentanyl was left on a scale or somewhere else in narcotics packaging – or if it was done intentionally. The latter, she said, would likely be the result of a drug supplier trying to deliver customers a more intense and possibly habit-forming high.
Since July, the state’s DPH has received 39 reports of individuals who said they had only smoked marijuana showing opioid overdose symptoms. In all of these instances, the individual was revived by naloxone – which is commonly used as an opioid antidote. Aside from the lab-confirmed case in Plymouth, Logan said it remains unclear if the other instances truly involved individuals only smoking marijuana or if they chose not to admit to opioid use. Thus far, no deaths related to marijuana laced with Fentanyl have been confirmed in the state.
Logan said one recent overdose death in Watertown is being investigated as possibly caused by a mixture of marijuana and Fentanyl, but it remains uncertain.
Police around Connecticut are now being asked to secure marijuana for testing if it is found at the scene of an overdose.
And the DPH – which discourages illicit drug use even if its marijuana – is warning those who do choose to use marijuana obtained illegally to take precautions.
“You’re not going to change people’s behavior,” said Chris Boyle, director of communications with DPH. “If you’re going to do it, have naloxone on hand and don’t do it alone.”
“Any time you get something in the illegal drug market, you don’t know what you’re getting,” Logan added.
The only way to verify marijuana has not been mixed with other substances is to acquire it from a licensed dispensary, Logan said.
As of July, recreational marijuana became legal in Connecticut under certain amounts – depending on where it is being kept – for individuals over 21. Retail sales for recreational use are not expected to begin in the state until at least late 2022. Growing the plant for recreational purposes remains illegal in Connecticut until July 2023.
Justin Muszynski can be reached at 860-973-1809 or email@example.com.