• Drug users have reportedly been stockpiling drugs amid coronavirus lockdowns
  • Experts worry the illegal drug shortage could lead users to more dangerous alternatives
  • Heavy drug users are also more at risk for contracting COVID-19

Coronavirus-related lockdowns in many places have many people worried about shortages in necessary supplies such as food and toilet paper but, experts are also worried about the possible implications of a drop in the supply of illicit drugs.

According to The Guardian, border guards in the UK are seeing a drop in seizures, while police are also noting the sudden drop in supply. In the U.S., CNN noted earlier in April that drug users were reportedly stockpiling their drug of choice as coronavirus lockdowns hamper the supply chains.

Although having a short supply of such drugs may sound good, it could actually cause users to turn to riskier, more dangerous drugs. In fact, the shortage is reportedly already leading to an increase in drug prices and a decrease in purity.

In the past, for instance during UK's 2010-2011 heroin drought, drug purity "at dealer level" to dropped to 18 percent.

"We know the purity of many drugs is decreasing as dealers cut them with different substances to increase their bulk," Dr. Rachel Britton of mental health charity We Are With You told The Guardian. "This means people often don't know what they are taking, increasing the chance of overdose."

Another major concern that experts in the UK are worried about is the arrival of fentanyl in the market. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin and, has already caused an overdose crisis in the U.S. and Canada.

Although it is not yet considered widespread in the UK, in the U.S., opioids are considered to be the main drivers of drug overdose deaths, particularly in recent years. In 2017 alone, there were over 70,200 overdose deaths, 47,600 of which were opioid-related.

"(E)ven with the absence of fentanyl, the UK already has record levels of drug deaths," Niamh Eastwood of the drugs charity Release told the Guardian. "If fentanyl or any of its analogs were to start to appear this would be catastrophic."

The UK has been seeing near-record levels of drug-related deaths for the past six years. According to experts, it is possible that the coronavirus pandemic could be the crisis that triggers fentanyl's effect in the UK.

Apart from the possibility that drug users might shift to using more dangerous alternatives, there is also concern over their risks in relation to COVID-19.

Given the current situation when people are being advised to practice social distancing, there is heightened concern that drug users may overdose alone, possibly leading to more deaths. What's more, heavy drug users are also more likely to have other health issues or be homeless, making them more at risk of contracting COVID-19.

Heroin has been called one of the most dangerous drugs to an individual person’s health. CC0 Creative Commons