Purple heroin is a combination of heroin and carfentanil or fentanyl. This mixture is relatively new on the drug scene. Unfortunately, there have been complications and even death from using this substance.

Fentanyl is a powerful drug. Did you know, however, that carfentanil is even much stronger than fentanyl? Veterinarians use carfentanil for enormous animals like elephants, rhinos, and gorillas. That is, indeed, how strong it is.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), carfentanil is about 100 times stronger than fentanyl. It is also 5,000 times stronger than heroin and 10,000 times stronger than morphine! That is mind-boggling.

There is documentation of many overdose deaths from abusing purple heroin. Unfortunately, this number continues to grow.

What is Purple Heroin?

A dangerous heroin combination is one of the latest trends on the streets. The mixture of heroin and fentanyl or carfentanil is known as Purple Heroin. Sadly, this is a deadly substance that can lead to fatalities. Also, this drug is readily available on the internet and the streets. It is commonly referred to as

  • Purple
  • Purp

Considering that purple heroin is a mixture of different substances, I think it certainly helps to talk about the various components. So let us briefly talk about heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanil.

What is Heroin?

Heroin is a very addictive opioid that is rapidly acting. This opioid is classified as a Schedule I Substance by the DEA. The reason for this is because of its extreme risk of addiction. Heroin comes as a white powder, brown powder, or a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin. Heroin use can quickly cause physical and psychological dependence. It initially creates “a high” that users find attractive. Eventually, though, the high may not be as obvious. The withdrawals which follow not using can, however, be very uncomfortable. Because of this, people continue using to avoid the ensuing discomfort.

Common street names for heroin include

  • Smack
  • Black Tar
  • Big H
  • H
  • Hell Dust
  • Horse
  • Negra
  • Thunder
  • Chiva
  • Mexican Brown
  • China White

Origin and Use of Heroin

purple heroinHeroin is made from morphine, a natural substance from the opium poppy plant. This plant is common in Southwest Asia, Southeast Asia, Mexico, and South America. People use this drug by injecting, snorting, sniffing, and smoking. As a way to make it work faster, some people burn the substance and inhale the fumes. Also, injecting heroin directly into the blood (IV use) is another way people quickly gain its effects. This IV use, unfortunately, leads to many complications. Furthermore, there is a practice of mixing heroin and cocaine known as speedballing.

Even though purer heroin is now more common, most heroin from the streets is “cut” with other substances. These substances can be other drugs, starch, sugar, quinine, or even powdered milk. Drug dealers probably add these to heroin to increase their profit margins. Unfortunately, this puts users of such mixtures at risk.

How long does heroin stay in your system? The duration depends on several factors. Firstly, the amount used is essential. Secondly, the method of using contributes to this. Also, your body metabolism can contribute to how long it stays in your system. Ultimately, heroin and its byproducts (metabolites) can remain in your body for one to three days.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) gives some interesting statistics on overdoses. Opioid overdose deaths increased from 18,515 deaths in 2007 to 47,600 deaths in 2017. Meanwhile, out of this number, 68% of deaths occurred among males.

Why Do People Use Heroin?

People who use heroin are aware of the adverse effects. Despite this, they continue to use it. Why is this? Because heroin enters the brain very quickly, it is very addictive. People like the rush or intense high this drug produces. Heroin users report feeling a profound sense of happiness, peace, and relaxation. Also, some people describe a “slowing down” of the world and appear to be in a dream-like state.

How do people become addicted? Firstly, tolerance develops. Tolerance means you have to use more of the drug to get the same effects. Secondly, physical and psychological dependence occurs. Besides, without heroin, people develop withdrawals. These are very uncomfortable. Because of this discomfort, users tend to continue using it. This use thus helps the cycle of addiction.

Addiction can occur very quickly. Many factors play into how quickly people become addicted. These include the dose of heroin, method of use, frequency, the individual, and circumstances around using.

The body breaks down heroin into morphine. This substance enters the brain very quickly. Morphine attaches to cells in the brain known as opioid receptors. Consequently, this attachment causes the release of large amounts of a brain chemical called dopamine. This chemical is regarded as a feel-good chemical and produces feelings of happiness. Heroin has effects on brain cells involved in feelings of pain, pleasure, heart rate, sleeping, and breathing.

What are the Effects of Heroin?

The use of heroin causes an extreme high, described as “a rush.” In addition to this, there are many other effects of this drug:

  • drowsiness
  • constricted pupils
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • dry mouth
  • skin itching
  • warm flushing of the skin
  • heavy feeling in the arms and legs
  • confusion
  • difficulty sleeping
  • sexual problems
  • irregular menses
  • constipation
  • lung issues like pneumonia
  • depression
  • heart disease
  • collapsed veins from injecting
  • damaged nose tissue from snorting
  • damage to other body organs like the kidneys, liver, and brain
  • HIV and hepatitis from sharing needles

Overdosing on Heroin

Heroin users do not always know the exact amount they use. The reason for this is because heroin is “cut” with other substances. Also, the other ingredients are mostly unknown. Consequently, overdoses and complications are frequent. Many deaths have occurred from a heroin overdose. Unfortunately, deaths from heroin and other opioids continue to increase. The effects of heroin overdose include:

  • slow and shallow breathing
  • blue lips and fingernails
  • clammy skin
  • seizures
  • coma
  • death

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. The FDA approves it for use as a pain medication and anesthetic. It is about 50 times stronger than heroin. Fentanyl was first produced in 1959. Albeit an old drug, fentanyl is one of the commonly abused opioids. Sadly, fatal overdoses from this drug have increased over time.

This drug has many street names. Some of such names are:

  • China Girl
  • Tango & Cash
  • He-Man
  • King Ivory
  • Murder 8
  • Apache
  • Friend
  • Dance Fever
  • Great Bear
  • Jackpot
  • Goodfellas

Fentanyl is available as lozenges, tablets, oral sprays, nasal sprays, transdermal patches, and injections. On the street, fentanyl is sold alone and also in combination with other drugs. Cocaine and heroin are amongst the most common drugs mixed with fentanyl.

Illegal Use and Effects of Fentanyl

People abuse fentanyl in different ways:

  • smoking
  • taken by mouth in pill or tablet form
  • used with blotter paper
  • snorting
  • injecting

With fentanyl patches, people remove the contents. The content is then injected or consumed by mouth. Some individuals also freeze the patches. Afterward, they cut them up and place them under their tongue.

This drug acts like other opioids. As a result, it can cause drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, difficulty urinating, small pupil size, confusion, pain relief, euphoria, and slow breathing. Overdose can cause coma, pinpoint pupils, difficulty breathing, and even death.

What is Carfentanil?

opioidIs carfentanil dangerous? Yes, it is! Very dangerous. Carfentanil is about a hundred times stronger than fentanyl. It is also thousands of times stronger than heroin. This potency means very tiny doses can be hazardous. An amount as small as a grain of salt (about 20 mcg) can be fatal. Hence, the need to be very careful with this substance.

Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid first made in 1974. It is a very potent drug. Because of this, veterinarians use carfentanil to put huge animals to sleep. It can knock out an elephant quite quickly! The brand name for this drug is “Wildnil.” As a result of its potency, it is a component of some tranquilizer darts.

In 2016, Time wrote an article titled “Heroin is Being Laced With a Terrifying New Substance: What to Know About Carfentanil.” This article reported over 300 overdoses and multiple deaths related to this drug.

Carfentanil is probably added to heroin because it is cheaper than heroin. It is also easier to get and make than heroin. Furthermore, carfentanil has no smell or taste. This property makes it impossible to tell if your drug has carfentanil in it. It comes as liquid, blotter, powder, and pill.

Carfentanil can get to the brain very quickly. This ability is because of how easily it crosses the blood-brain-barrier. It thus works fast, but it is also short acting.

What is Opioid Use Disorder?

According to the DSM-5, opioid use disorder occurs when there is a problematic use that causes significant impairment or distress. The DSM-5 requires at least two of such impairments. Also, this distress needs to occur within 12 months. These impairments or difficulty include:

  1. Taking more significant amounts of opioids over extended periods than intended.
  2. A persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control use.
  3. Spending a great deal of time in activities necessary to get, use, or recover from it.
  4. Craving for opioids. Or also a strong desire or urge to use it.
  5. The recurrent use of opioids causing a failure to fulfill role obligations. This failure may be at work, school, or home, for instance.
  6. Continued use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems.
  7. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities stopped or reduced because of it.
  8. Recurrent opioid use in situations in which it is physically hazardous
  9. Continued use even with having a physical or psychological problem due to or made worse by opioids.
  10. Tolerance to this substance. Tolerance may be a need for increased amounts to achieve intoxication or the desired effect. It may also present as a decreased effect with continued use of the same amount of opioids.
  11. Withdrawal symptoms.

Overdosing on Purple Heroin

Overdoses are common with purple heroin. It is also more likely that people will overdose on purp than on heroin. This likelihood is because of the potency of fentanyl and carfentanil. Overdose symptoms can present as:

  • drowsiness
  • slow breathing
  • slurred speech
  • poor attention and memory
  • confusion
  • blue lips and nails
  • seizures
  • coma
  • death

Combining heroin with carfentanil or fentanyl is one thing. However, mixing them up in unknown amounts is another issue altogether. People using purp don’t know the exact amount of the ingredients in the drug. As a result, this makes taking purple heroin similar to playing Russian roulette.

How to stay safe from Purple Heroin

The best way to stay safe from the effects of purple heroin is to abstain. Staying away is, however easier said than done for people who are addicted to this drug. Because addiction is a brain disease, stopping drug use is more complicated than the moral angle suggests. As a result of this, consideration of other techniques is crucial. Harm reduction for purple heroin is one of such modalities to consider.

The Community Drug Strategy is a Canadian initiative. This organization aims to improve health and also address drug-related issues. As a way to be safer, there are a few things they recommend:

  • Have naloxone (Narcan) ready.
  • Use with other people, but NOT at the same time. Never use drugs alone.
  • Start with smaller amounts than usual.
  • An overdose occurs quickly.
  • Call 911 if you suspect the person is overdosing.
  • Stay with the person until help arrives.

The above advice is in keeping with harm reduction. Again, it is best to abstain from purple heroin and other drugs. However, for people who use, caution must be exercised. The aim is to avoid life-threatening complications from using purple heroin.

To clarify, abstinence or safer alternatives should be the goal. Medication-Assisted Treatment remains a gold standard for treating opioid use disorders.

Legal Status of the components of Purple Heroin

In the United States, the ingredients of purple heroin are all controlled substances:

  • Heroin: Schedule I under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act
  • Fentanyl: Schedule II under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act
  • Carfentanil: Schedule II under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act

Treatment of Purple Heroin Overdose

Naloxone is a medication approved for the treatment of opioid overdose. This medication works by binding to opioid receptors in the brain. This bond blocks the effects of heroin and other opioids. Naloxone works very quickly. One dose may be adequate. Giving repeat doses is, however, sometimes needed. It is crucial to call the emergency service as additional support helps recovery.

Naloxone is available as:

  1. in injection
  2. an auto-injection (Evzio)
  3. a nasal spray (Narcan)

Several programs make naloxone accessible to people who use opioids. Hence, this life-saving medication is generally available to lots of users. Indeed, there are many instances of family and friends, saving people who overdosed. For this reason, some states have even passed laws that allow pharmacists dispense naloxone without a prescription.

Treatment of Purple Heroin Addiction

Detoxification is the first step in the treatment of opioid use disorders. This step is vital because the withdrawals can be very uncomfortable. Such discomfort may thus lead to relapse. Medications like lofexidine and clonidine help with detox. Also, buprenorphine is a suitable medication for withdrawals.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) remains the gold standard for treating opioid use disorders long term. MAT is an evidence-based treatment that involves the use of medications and behavioral therapy. Ultimately, the goal is to provide individualized whole-patient treatment.

There are four medications approved by the FDA for the treatment of opioid use disorders. These are:

  1. Buprenorphine
  2. Methadone
  3. Naltrexone tablets
  4. Naltrexone injection (Vivitrol)

Methadone and buprenorphine work by binding on opioid receptors in the brain. They, however, bind more weakly than opioids. As a result, they reduce withdrawals and cravings.

On the other hand, naltrexone blocks the opioid receptors. This blockage thus prevents opioids from having an effect. A study found similar effectiveness with buprenorphine and Vivitrol.

There are two commonly used behavioral therapies for purple heroin addiction. These are

  1. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
  2. Contingency Management

Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps to modify your purple heroin use expectations and behaviors. Contingency management provides rewards and incentives for positive behaviors. These therapies are, however, more effective when combined with medications.

Conclusion

Purple heroin is an illegal substance made by mixing heroin with either carfentanil or fentanyl. Carfentanil is 5,000 times stronger than heroin. This potency makes such a mixture very dangerous. As a result, there have been several deaths following overdoses. The common street names for purple heroin are purple and purp.

The effects of purple heroin include drowsiness, constricted pupils, dry mouth, heavy feeling in the arms and legs, constipation, and damage to many body organs.

Overdoses on purple heroin have, unfortunately, been quite common in recent times. One of the reasons for this is because of the other contents of this drug. Carfentanil and fentanyl, the other ingredients, are much stronger than heroin. The strength of these substances, therefore, makes it easier for overdoses to occur. An overdose can cause slow breathing, blue lips and nails, seizures, coma, and even death.

Naloxone is the medication for treating overdose on purple heroin. Drugs like lofexidine, clonidine, and buprenorphine help with detoxification. Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) remains the gold standard for treating addiction to purple heroin. MAT involves using medications like buprenorphine, methadone, naltrexone tablets, and Vivitrol. Behavioral therapy is also a component of Medication-Assisted Treatment.

Have you had a personal experience with purple heroin? Or do you know someone who has? Perhaps, this article might be helpful to someone in need. Share this article and subscribe to our email list to get similar write-ups.