TMZ claims Demi Lovato 'freebased' oxycodone laced with fentanyl: What does that mean, exactly?

Korin Miller
Writer

More details are emerging about the night Demi Lovato apparently overdosed in late July. In a new report, TMZ cites sources who allege that the singer took oxycodone laced with fentanyl. (The reports have not been confirmed.)

The TMZ report states that Lovato called a drug dealer to her home around 4 a.m., and they “freebased” oxycodone on aluminum foil. The dealer — who apparently laced the drugs with fentanyl — is believed to have left Lovato’s home when he noticed she was in bed, breathing heavily. Lovato was later administered Narcan, a drug that can treat a narcotic overdose in an emergency situation.

Whether the 25-year-old freebased or not remains to be seen. But either way, the practice is highly dangerous. Although “freebasing” isn’t a term that’s used a lot in pop culture, it’s fairly common when it comes to drug abuse, Jamie Alan, PhD, an assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

TMZ is reporting that Demi Lovato ‘freebased’ Oxycodone and fentanyl (Getty Images)

Usually, the drugs you buy at a pharmacy are mixed with sodium, she explains. “A certain amount of the medication is the active drug and a certain amount is a salt,” Alan says. When people freebase, they remove the salt and extract just the pure form of the drug, Alan says. Often people will take that pure form, heat it (usually on foil), and inhale the vapors, addiction specialist Neeraj Gandotra, MD, chief medical officer at Delphi Behavioral HealthGroup, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

There are a few major reasons this is so dangerous: One is that a person is ingesting more active drug per weight, which can increase the odds of an overdose, Alan says. The other is that smoking a drug can cause a fast high, Gandotra says, and that can lead to someone taking in even more than if it was taken in another form. Not only that, smoking or snorting a drug bypasses your liver, which will help filter out some of the drug before it reaches the rest of your body if you took it orally, Alan says — as a result, it’s more likely that a person will overdose.

As for taking a drug that’s laced with fentanyl, that’s especially bad, Alan says. Both fentanyl and oxycodone are opioids, and putting the two together will have an even more addictive effect, she says. Fentanyl is also one of the most potent opioids on the market, and if someone doesn’t have a tolerance to it, that person can “rapidly” go into respiratory distress and arrest, Alan says.

Lovato reportedly spent two weeks in the hospital and is currently seeking treatment for drug addiction. Her representatives have yet to comment on TMZ’s allegations.

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