It’s the nightmare of every stoner who prefers not to sample hard drugs. A few puffs into a great J, it becomes clear something is wrong. From there, things take a dramatic turn for the worse, provoking panic attacks, dissociative episodes, psychosis, or other severely negative effects.
This is the story of a laced joint. Marijuana is almost always just marijuana, but sometimes devious dealers cut their product with other drugs, some decidedly dangerous. Spend a lifetime smoking weed and you probably won’t come across laced product even once, but it does happen. So how common is it?
As a general matter, there is no way to accurately measure how often potheads unwittingly ingest other drugs. The government doesn’t track drug issues at this level of detail. And users often mix multiple chemicals, some intentionally, making it difficult to pinpoint the one that caused a bad trip.
Laced marijuana is extremely rare
That said, it’s a safe bet that laced cannabis cigarettes are a rare find. With the exception of sociopaths and other malicious personalities, it makes little sense for dealers to poison their customers.
This is true for the same reason loan sharks are more likely to injure debtors than kill them: because a dead client can’t keep paying you. That doesn’t account for all dealers; a few are undoubtedly bad apples looking for a chance to hurt someone. But not most.
Certain drug combinations are more common than others. And not all laced pot is laced by unscrupulous dealers. Users often do it to themselves. This is especially true when marijuana is combined with heroin, cocaine, and other popular hard drugs. The effects of these blends are poorly understood, but users report a wide range of symptoms.
Joints provide a convenient delivery method for harder drugs
Even if marijuana doesn’t interact negatively with a particular hard drug, it still serves as a convenient way to deliver the more dangerous substance. Weed is incredibly popular, and a cruel prankster could easily get her hands on it.
Other drugs are used to lace cannabis, too. Joints are sometimes dipped in formaldehyde stolen from funeral homes, provoking agitation, disorganized speech and thoughts, and attention deficit problems. But no unintentional combination is quite as notorious as weed and PCP.
Formally known as phencyclidine, PCP is a dissociative anesthetic developed in the 1950s. It was initially used in human surgery, until it became clear in the 1960s that it caused severe episodes of dissociation and psychosis. Dissociation is a phenomenon in which a person becomes mentally separated from himself, from his physical surroundings, or from reality. It’s caused by several drugs, including salvia divinorum and ketamine.
The latter drug, discovered in 1962, replaced PCP as the primary dissociative anesthetic. Ketamine, like PCP, has recreational uses and can be used to lace marijuana, but the effects are less severe and typically don’t last as long. And ketamine users rarely become aggressive as PCP users can.
Almost any chemical can be used to lace cannabis, as long as it can be smoked. But the reality is that you’re extremely unlikely ever to encounter this problem, whether on or off the legal marijuana market. It may be a horror story retold by burned out hippies, but it’s not one you should worry about.