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What Substances Are More Likely To Be Contaminated With Fentanyl?

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of fentanyl related deaths in the news. I’m new to the psychedelic scene and confused. Would someone cut molly or mushroom capsules with fentanyl? What drugs would fentanyl likely be found in and what can I do to stay safe?

At this point, it’s not really so much about being “cut” as it is “contaminated.” There are reasons why fentanyl would be intentionally cut into certain substances – its low dosage and opioid properties make it an appealing low-weight, low-cost adulterant for downers like heroin or even Xanax – but there is no rhyme or reason to the presence of fentanyl in cocaine or MDMA. Since it can be lethal in doses at around 1 to 2mg (the size of a couple of grains of sand), it’s really easy for powdered fentanyl to accidentally make its way into/onto all kinds of drugs. This might happen because they’re getting packaged in the same facility as other substances, making it easy to cross-contaminate with shared surfaces, measurement tools, baggies, and gloves. 

Here’s the catch: Some drugs seem to be more likely to be cross-contaminated than others, just based on the trends of which substances are packaged and trafficked together. Powders, for example, may be scooped into baggies with spoons, while crystals would be picked up using tweezers. Drugs that share countries of origin or manufacturing processes might be more likely to cross paths. It’s all pretty complicated, but the bottom line is that we’re seeing a significant uptick in the presence of fentanyl in cocaine specifically, and the occasional presence of fentanyl in meth, MDMA, or ketamine (the latter two seem to be true outliers at this point). 

Reports of fentanyl in plant matter like cannabis or mushrooms have never been substantiated, as far as I am aware, and are all hearsay. (Not to mention that you can’t test organic material for fentanyl at home.) As such, I would advise that you should test all powders, period, until further notice. Test crystals whenever possible. Don’t use alone, and carry Narcan even if you don’t think you’ll need it. You can buy drug checking materials here (made by DanceSafe). Make sure you read and follow the included instructions as exactly as you can to get the most accurate results.

I have some friends who took MDMA together and became sexual afterward, but then had a fallout about whether it was really consensual. Do you have any tips on navigating sex and boundaries while high?

Consenting while altered is definitely a nuanced topic. In an ideal world, all parties involved would have had a discussion about boundaries and expectations before dosing. As we know, though, this isn’t always possible.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most important part of consent while altered is communication. All parties involved should be aware of what substances the others have taken, when, and how much. A discussion should take place about how those substances may be influencing consent in the moment, and any power dynamics that may be present. 

If any party is unable to a) track nonverbal cues (which can be an effect of MDMA use) or b) communicate their thoughts and feelings, consent cannot be given. No party’s reasoning should be impaired. If you are uncertain about whether reasoning is impaired, this is also a red flag. You should always be able to express and identify consent with complete confidence and confirmation to proceed while under the influence. 

Having an explicitly discussed contract around sexual intentions, desires, and boundaries prior to dosing is an important way to open dialogue in advance and have clear, sober determination of what is and is not okay. Not everything can be predicted, so if you get powerful surprise vibes mid-sesh the best course of action might be to hold off entirely until you can confirm with complete and total confidence that the interaction is/would have been 100% consensual.

Do LSD, 2C-B, and psilocybin deplete your serotonin like MDMA and need to be spaced the same way?

The short answer is no. For the long answer: LSD and psilocybin are what we call “classical psychedelics,” two of the Big 4 that also includes mescaline and DMT. These are predominantly serotonin agonists with activity at a specific serotonin receptor, the 5-HT2a receptor. 

Now, an agonist is not the same as a releasing agent, which is not the same as a reuptake inhibitor. These are all fancy neuroscience terms that relate to how a substance may enhance the effects or effectiveness of an existing chemical system in the brain. Some drugs dump out neurotransmitters (like amphetamines, including MDMA), some drugs prevent neurotransmitters from getting recycled and prolong their activity (like SSRIs), and other drugs look just similar enough to neurotransmitters to hijack what they’re currently doing for a bit (like classical psychedelics). All of these mechanisms can enhance the activity of an existing system as it goes to work. Sometimes they’re mixed and matched.

In the case of an agonist like LSD or psilocin, the substance in question effectively disguises itself as a particular neurotransmitter and does what that neurotransmitter would normally do: bind at a receptor. Unlike MDMA, this doesn’t increase the amount of serotonin available, but rather takes the wheel of the serotonin receptor and drives it for a while. We’re not 100% sure how point A leads to point Z here, but we do know that serotonin agonists make serotonin receptors behave differently than usual. 

2C-B is a bit less straightforward, and its pharmacology is not well-understood yet, but it does not appear to be a releasing agent either.

Since you’re not depleting any serotonin in this process (that we’re aware of), classical psychedelics do not need to be spaced in the same way that MDMA does. It is possible, however, for prolonged frequent use of psychedelics to produce behavioral changes. Some folks experience dissociation, HPPD, or difficulty processing conversations if they’re dropping too often for their personal chemistry. This is not necessarily a physiological concern, but it’s worth keeping a close eye on if you’re doing psychedelics regularly.

About Your Psychedelic Auntie

When we have questions about psychedelics, we often consult our Auntie. An Auntie can be a person of any gender who offers wise advice about psychedelic substances and how to effectively use them. Lucid News is asking a collection of well-informed people to step in as Auntie and answer your questions about psychedelics. Some of the best peer-based, accurate information about psychedelic substances and harm reduction comes from DanceSafe, a nonprofit educational organization founded in 1998. DanceSafe provides health and safety services at festivals and events. This month, our Psychedelic Auntie is DanceSafe Programs and Communications Coordinator Rachel Clark. Send your questions to the Psychedelic Auntie via the Lucid News contact page and watch this space for the answers. 

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