Top Drug Trends of 2018

What were the top drug trends of 2018?

As the year comes to a close, it’s important to pause and take stock. For many men and women, this will be a year of taking those first steps towards recovery. For others, it may be the time of simple realization that they need help. As we look back, it’s important to learn from past experiences. One way to do this is to look at some of the top drug trends and statistics over the last year. At FHE Health, our team is constantly monitoring changes in drug access and use to stay on top of the industry.

Take a closer look at some of the most significant drug trends we saw take place in 2018.

Chasing the Dragon - Inhaled Heroin

Inhaling Heroin

Perhaps one of the most worrisome of all drug trends for 2018 was the move from injecting to inhaling heroin. Some data exists to show this is one of the fastest growing trends in heroin consumption, though injecting it is still more common. A study published by JAMA Neurology found inhaling the drug in this manner creates irreversible brain damage. It may also worsen or heighten risk for dementia.

While injecting heroin is dangerous, the risk of brain tissue damage is lower for intravenous users than inhaling the substance. The difference lies in just how fast it gets to the brain. The chemicals don’t go through the digestive system and, therefore, the body doesn’t metabolize them. Digestion helps to minimize the toxicity. Inhaling it eliminates even this filter.

Kratom - one of the top drug trends of 2018Kratom

The Food and Drug Administration classifies Kratom is an opioid. Many people believe its harmless-sounding moniker means that it’s an organic pain reliever. Teens and adults are increasingly using this drug in search of a high, with numerous side effects including creating respiratory depression. Some reports of psychosis occur as well. Perhaps most important is that it’s highly addictive, much like any other opioid. Yet, it tends to be easier to obtain. In some situations, users can even buy it online. As a result, the use of this drug continues to grow.

Spice and K2

Synthetic drugs are also a growing trend. In 2018, Spice and K2 are two of the most common synthetic forms of cannabis used by teens and adults. Companies manufacture these drugs. There is no regulation. As a result, any instance of use of these or other synthetics carries little clarity on what is actually in the pill or substance. Despite this, it’s commonly thought of as safe. In some situations, companies sell these products in the form of incense. They can provide the same high desired, but tend to be hard to find on traditional drug tests. Nevertheless, they still impact a person’s health. Other names – including Fake Weed, Red Magic, and Genie – follow the same pattern of use.

Fentanyl-Laced Crack Cocaine

Perhaps one of the most recent drugs to gain a lot of attention is crack cocaine laced with fentanyl. This is a deadly combination by any measure. Fentanyl is a synthetic type of opioid. What makes it very problematic is that it is up to 100 times stronger than morphine, a more commonly given pain reliever. When cocaine contains fentanyl, it can be very difficult to treat. Even a very small amount of this substance can cause respiratory failure and stop the heart. It takes just a small amount to create an overdose situation giving individuals minutes to receive help.

When this combination does not cause a life-threatening overdose, it can create severe addiction. Some people taking it do not know they are receiving these products. Street crack cocaine laced with fentanyl is growing in access across the country.

Prescription Opioids

The ongoing epidemic of opioid addiction continues to play out across many states. This year, numerous states and local authorities took action to stop the over-prescription of this type of painkiller. Some states took aim at manufacturers for making it too easy for individuals to access these drugs. Other organizations focused on doctors over-prescribing the drug or not checking mandatory databases to ensure individuals did not have access to more of the prescription drug than they needed. Nevertheless, opioids continue to play a significant role in addiction in the U.S.

Psilocybin or Magic Mushrooms

Though many would say the popularity of psychedelic and hallucinogenic drugs peaked decades ago, a resurgence in hallucinogen use is underway. A specific type is Psilocybin, commonly found on the streets as Magic Mushrooms. This is a naturally-produced compound found in a specific type of dried or fresh mushroom. Ingested, it creates a sense of euphoria and often-vivid hallucinations. In some situations, users are mixing it with teas or other drugs, including marijuana, to enhance the impact.

What is grey death composed of?Grey Death

An opioid mixture called Grey Death is also creating a number of worrisome situations throughout the country. It looks much like a concrete mix and contains carfentanil (a type of tranquilizer used on elephants) along with heroin and fentanyl. Most versions also contain U-47700, a type of synthetic opioid. Reports indicate individuals are using this combination to create a significant high. However, some experts say it is one of the most worrisome of all drug combinations because of the presence of fentanyl. In 2017, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration listed U-47700 as one of the most dangerous of all drugs it regulates. The number of overdose deaths from this drug continues to grow. Reports indicate that 50 overdoses cases involving the use of gray death occurred in the three months prior to the report in the Atlanta area alone.


A growing trend among teenagers, e-cigarettes are not harmless or safe by any means. Though the FDA has recently taken steps to push manufacturers to keep these products out of the hands of teenagers, many are still using them. In some cases, the liquids used in vaping tools contain drugs and chemicals that create a high. In some cases, they put individuals at risk for overdose. In most situations, they create addictive behaviors. Though teens may not use traditional cigarettes as they used to, products like Juul have become more accessible and, therefore, more commonplace among teen users.

These top drug trends for 2018 will continue to play a role in the year to come. Many men and women may face the need for treatment if exposure to these products occurs. No matter how dire the situation seems, treatment may offer some help on the path to recovery.

Is This the Year You’ll Make the Change?

FHE Health works closely with patients and their families who need treatment from substance abuse disorder. No matter if you used any of these or other types of drugs, or struggle with alcohol addiction, treatment is available. Contact our team to learn more about the programs we offer and how they can work to meet your needs.

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