China White Heroin
China white heroin is a street name given to fentanyl, but it can also be referred to as heroin that is mixed with fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Generally, fentanyl is prescribed to people to help manage pain. Fentanyl has very powerful opioid properties which make it appealing for abuse. Drug dealers tend to mix fentanyl with other drugs like heroin because it makes heroin extremely potent, it is cheap, and a dangerous additive.
History of China White
Fentanyl was originally created in 1959. In the 1960s it was first introduced as an intravenous (IV) anesthetic. It is legally manufactured and distributed all throughout the United States for various medical purposes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2015 a nationwide alert and public health advisory was issued about the huge rise in fentanyl drug reports and deaths across multiple states in the Northeast, Midwest, and South that began in late 2013. Due to the high potency, rapid onset of action, and difficulty of mixing nonlethal doses it makes fentanyl more dangerous than heroin alone. Heroin mixed with fentanyl accounted for 77% of the total increase in deaths involving heroin. Recently, trafficking, distribution, and abuse of the illicitly produced fentanyl have resulted in an increase in overdose deaths.
Why China White Is Called Synthetic Heroin
China White is called synthetic heroin because it is a man-made drug known as fentanyl which produces more potent effects than heroin. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid drug that has been approved by the FDA for pain relief. Fentanyl is often sold as a white powdery substance making it appear to be very pure heroin. Recent data from toxicology reports show that the United States heroin supply is frequently laced with fentanyl.
China White Overdoses
Due to fentanyl being mixed into heroin or even being sold as heroin, an overdose is extremely common. This is because the people who are purchasing the heroin do not know they are actually purchasing fentanyl. Fentanyl is way more potent than morphine and when mixed with heroin it enhances the effects felt from using heroin. A person using heroin will attempt to use their normal dose, not knowing, and will overdose because of how powerful the fentanyl addictive is.
According to the CDC, over 36,000 people have died from overdosing on fentanyl which is an increase of 16% from 2018 to 2019. With even a more accelerated drug overdose death counts during the COVID-19 pandemic through May 2020. The overdose death rate can be attributed to illegally made fentanyl that is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Although Fentanyl is sometimes taken from pharmaceutical sources, most often it is illicitly made in Mexico and China.
Overdose from fentanyl may result in stupor, changes in a person’s pupil size, cyanosis, cold and clammy skin, or respiratory failure that leads to death. The key symptoms to keep an eye out for that point to opioid poisoning are coma, pinpoint size pupils, and decreased respiratory responses.
Effect on the Brain
Fentanyl produces multiple effects on the brain. According to a recent study, fentanyl is a least 20 times more potent than heroin in causing brain hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain). Fentanyl was also found to induce a state of unconsciousness due to the drug blocking motor receptors in the brain that respond to external and internal stimuli. With that being said, a person may experience an inability to control their breathing because the receptors in the brain that control that response are blocked.
Adverse Effects of China White
If the substance is taken by IV administration, the china white drug effect can be felt within several minutes. It can last anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes after a single dose is taken. If fentanyl is exposed to the skin, it can take hours or days to feel the effects. If the drug is ingested it will have two phases. First, exposure happens in a couple of minutes and then is absorbed through the intestinal tract over the next two hours. If the drug is inhaled it has rapid absorption.
The short-term effects last less than 8 hours once a person is exposed to the drug. These effects are delayed and reduced respiratory function. With IV administration a person can experience their chest muscles feeling rigid, known as wooden chest syndrome. This can interfere with normal breathing. Also, a rise in blood pressure within a person’s brain can happen along with muscle spasms. An individual may experience contracted or pinpoint pupils, reduced levels of consciousness, reduced blood oxygen levels, slow heart rate, accumulation of fluid in the lungs, and lethargy. Fentanyl also causes drowsiness, nausea, confusion, constipation, seizures, problems breathing, sedation, and death. When a person overdoses on white china, their breathing can slow or even cease. This causes a lack of oxygen to the brain leading a person to be in a coma, have permanent brain damage, or even die. China White withdrawal symptoms are similar to that of heroin and various other opioids. Fentanyl and heroin are both short-acting opioids meaning that the onset of opioid withdrawal symptoms can be as quickly as 8-24 hours and last anywhere from 4 to 10 days. A person may experience uncontrollable leg movements, nausea, anxiety, sleep problems, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes, perspiration, muscle cramps, watery discharge from eyes and mouth, and uncontrollable cravings. These symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable for a person which makes it very hard to discontinue using the drug.
China White Withdrawal
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China White withdrawal symptoms are similar to that of heroin and various other opioids. Fentanyl and heroin are both short-acting opioids meaning that the onset of opioid withdrawal symptoms can be as quickly as 8-24 hours and last anywhere from 4 to 10 days. A person may experience uncontrollable leg movements, nausea, anxiety, sleep problems, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes, perspiration, muscle cramps, watery discharge from eyes and mouth, and uncontrollable cravings. These symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable for a person which makes it very hard to discontinue using the drug.
Similar to heroin and other opioids addiction treatment, white china addiction can be treated with medication and behavioral therapies. The various behavioral treatments have been proven to be effective when paired with medications. Medications that have been proven to be effective are buprenorphine and methadone. These drugs work by binding to the same receptors that fentanyl would bind to in order to reduce cravings and other withdrawal symptoms. The behavioral therapies that are available to help individuals recover from their white china addiction are cognitive behavioral therapy, contingency management, and motivational interviewing. Behavioral therapies work by helping people change their attitudes and behaviors related to drug use. They also promote healthy lifestyles and encourage recovering individuals to continue to use their treatment medications.
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- Opioid Overdose. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Sold as heroin: Perception and use of an evolving drug in Baltimore, MD. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.
- Trends in Death Involving Heroin. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Withdrawal Management. Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings.
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