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  • Spectra Staff

Noteworthy Street Drugs and Their Health Risks: A Breakdown

Amplifi ID Drug Checking Device
Amplifi ID Drug Checking Device

In this blog post, we will delve into noteworthy street drugs and their potential health risks to users. Amplifi ID can enable point-of-care drug checking at harm reduction sites but, the value that results provide to a client can be diminished without proper insights and context. Although any sample can cause a significant threat to personal well-being and safety, specific substances and mixtures may pose an elevated risk to clients. Drugs, or drug mixtures, that are more likely to cause an adverse reaction if used are categorized as ‘noteworthy’, a concept coined by the Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation. Amplifi ID has a logic system built into its software that assesses the results from a drug test and determines whether the sample is noteworthy.

Noteworthy drug results from drug checking
CDPE's noteworthy drug defenition

Below is a breakdown of some of the types of noteworthy drugs and combinations Amplifi ID can identify. These insights aim to inform and raise awareness about the potential consequences of using these drugs, providing crucial knowledge to harm reduction workers and their clients.

1. Unknown Sample:

A compound that is not in the Amplifi ID library would be flagged as unknown. The difficulty with unknown substances is that they could be completely harmless or extremely dangerous. When dealing with unknown samples, it is essential to exercise extreme caution. While the test did not match any known compounds in our library, Spectra does offer a result review service. Samples that come up as unknown can be flagged for spectral interpretation or confirmatory analysis to determine the contents of the mixture.

2. High Concentration of Expected Substances (excluding methamphetamine and cocaine):

The detection of an active compound in high concentration from a bulk scan should raise concern. Using highly concentrated substances can result in stronger-than-expected effects and significantly increase the risk of overdose. For example, if fentanyl is detected with both a bulk and trace scan, it can be surmised that the concentration of fentanyl in this sample may be higher than normal.

3. Polydrug Sample:

When multiple active compounds are present in a sample, synergistic effects can increase the risk of an overdose. Using multiple substances simultaneously can lead to unforeseen interactions and exacerbate adverse effects. Avoiding accidental polydrug use is essential to minimize the risk of a potentially life-threatening overdose. While any polydrug mixture may create a significant health risk, specific combinations may be flagged due to known detrimental health effects.

4. Two or More High Potency Opioids:

The simultaneous use of stimulants and depressants, known as "speedballs," can lead to dangerous levels of respiratory suppression. This combination can increase the risk of an overdose, especially if the client is unaware of the presence of one or more of the components.

5. Opioid/Benzodiazepine Mixture:

Combining opioids with benzodiazepines can create powerful synergistic effects, leading to prolonged sedation and an increased risk of overdose. Additionally, people who have overdosed on this mixture may be less responsive to naloxone, a drug used in opioid overdose reversal.

6. Depressant/Stimulant Combination:

The simultaneous use of stimulants and depressants, known as "speedballs," can lead to dangerous levels of respiratory suppression. This combination can increase the risk of an overdose.

7. Carfentanil Present:

Carfentanil is an extremely potent fentanyl analogue, approximately 100 times stronger than Fentanyl HCl. The presence of carfentanil in a sample significantly elevates the risk of overdose and can lead to fatal outcomes even in tiny amounts.

8. Xylazine Present:

Xylazine, an animal tranquilizer, can cause severe adverse effects in humans, including potentially severe skin ulcers. As a depressant, xylazine can have synergistic effects with other active compounds in a mixture, compounding the potential risks of consumption. Avoiding any substances containing xylazine is strongly recommended.

Being aware of the potential health risks associated with noteworthy street drugs is crucial when operating a drug checking program. Our noteworthy insights aim to give actionable information to device operators in real time so that they can help their clients make educated decisions on their drug usage.

Interested in learning about how Amplifi ID can help further your harm reduction programming?

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