Their reasoning is warped by addiction, says Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University. For an addict, an overdose is a sign of an especially strong and good high. They believe that those who perish are less experienced or tolerant. Moreover, drug dealers boast about the number of deaths linked to their drug.
"Heroin users will seek out clusters of death," Hall adds. "It’s a phenomenon far more dangerous today than it was even months ago."
Historically, heroin addicts have sought stronger strains to feed their addiction. Drug dealers market their drugs with morbid names like "Death's door" and "Grim Reaper." Now, these strains are mixed with powerful, deadly painkillers, like fentanyl and the elephant tranquilizer carfentanil.
"People think they’ve become more tolerant to the drug than the more novice users who are dying," Hall explains. "This is no longer a sound rule — it never was."
Before, drug dealers' strains were specific to certain street corners or locations. Nowadays, dealers cover a more sprawling area, and cell phones and word of mouth link them to addicts. Even though dealers might brag about overdoses, Hall says they rarely know what is mixed into their drugs.
"It’s dealer-specific — what does this guy have this week?" Hall says. "But it’s hard to tell one day to the other whether it’s a lethal dose or not or how much poisonous additive is in it. They’re tiny differences between life and death."
Jeff Kadel, executive director of the Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition, has heard similar anecdotes. "It's very scary," he says. "People are not being scared off by the high levels of fentanyl that [are] causing overdoses; they’re actually seeking [them] out."
Kayla Concepcion, a spokesperson for the Broward's Sheriff's Office, adds: "Regardless of what risky behavior people are engaging in, they seldom envision the negative outcome happening to them. When it comes to illicit drugs, the truth is that you never know when a high will be your last."