Substance Abuse

Stay Away From China White, A Dangerous Designer Drug

china white powder

Synthetic drugs are man-made compounds created to mimic the effect of controlled substances. They come in different forms such as powder, pills, liquids or herbs. In this article, we will discuss an emerging designer drug called China White.

Brief Background on Designer Drugs

Deaths due to overdose have become more rampant, particularly among the younger generation. Unfortunately, some of them who use these substances are unaware of the real dangers that they are facing as they are more focused on the euphoric effect when using the drug. This craving for pleasure makes people disregard the dangerous chemical composition up of designer drugs.

One of the common synthetic drugs these days is fentanyl, which has become increasingly popular because of its powerful effect. It is currently among the controlled substances under Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act.

Because of the numerous clandestine laboratories that have sprouted in China and Mexico, it has become easier to purchase these drugs. This has led to the increase in the number of overdose cases and deaths throughout the country. This also gave rise to different analogues of fentanyl, which are increasingly becoming popular and have become responsible for the recent fentanyl-related deaths in New York.

There seems to be no stopping illegal drug manufacturers from creating various forms of drugs that spread havoc in different countries. More than realizing the dangers of these drugs, synthetic drug makers are focused more on how much profit they can earn. Because of this, more people are getting hooked on designer drugs. Sadly, drug users can now be as young as 8th graders.

What is China White?

One of the very recent types of designer drugs that has emerged notoriously is China White. Several reports on China White showed that the drug has claimed a lot of lives. Most of the victims may be unknowingly using this substance as this is most often sold as “pure fentanyl”.

China White is a highly potent heroin substitute made from fentanyl. It works like any other opiate substance and it comes in powdered form, which can be inhaled or injected. Some dealers deliberately substitute heroin with China White to increase its potency.

In the 1970s, China White was the common name referring to heroin. But now, it refers to heroin laced with fentanyl, which has an extremely potent effect.

The presence of heroin in the United States has been increasing rapidly with about 517,000 people reported to have heroin addiction. The average heroin user is 32 years old.

Despite its appearance as a white powder, China White should not be mistaken as a pure form of heroin because it is actually mixed with fentanyl. This combination is about 100 times stronger than heroin alone.

The different methods of administration of China White are as follows:

Intravenous injection

The powder can be mixed with water to create a solution that can be injected into the vein. The effect can be felt 7 to 8 seconds after injection.

Intramuscular injection

The same solution of powder mixed with water is injected into the muscle, the effects of which can be felt about 20 minutes after injection.

Nasal insufflation

The powder substance can be snorted or sniffed, and can be quickly absorbed into the nasal mucous membrane and in the bloodstream at least 10 to 15 minutes after administration.


The effect of smoking China White can be felt 10 to 15 minutes after inhalation. It is used by heating the powdered substance on aluminum foil to create smoke and vapor.

Subcutaneous injection

The powder can be injected under the outer skin. The effect is felt about 20 minutes after injection.

Oral ingestion

This form of administration is rarely used because of its slow absorption, which usually takes about 30 minutes before its effects are felt.

Most users think that China White means the pure form of fentanyl but is actually fentanyl mixed with a certain amount of heroin to provide the “higher than high” effect.

Why is China White Being Used?

As earlier mentioned, China White is a deadly combination of heroin and fentanyl. Heroin users are inclined to prefer China White with the hopes of receiving a more powerful impact than heroin alone. With this, users can enjoy a different level of euphoria, making them more satisfied.

However, along with this great euphoric effect is the increased risk of untoward circumstances, which may include death.

China White Addiction and Its Effect on the Brain

china white effect on brain

China White targets a certain area in the brain that releases dopamine, thus making an individual feel a positive disposition. Triggering the pleasure or happy center provides a feeling of satisfaction.

The effect is similar to eating when we feel hungry. The difference is that when substances like heroin or China White triggers our “happy center”, along with the pleasurable feeling comes the symptoms of slowly getting addicted to the substance.

China White excites the pleasure centers of our brains to an unusual degree. which leaves its users vulnerable to cravings for the substance. With consistent use and in large doses, the body reacts differently in a way that the body begins to solely rely on the drug to initiate stimulation of the release of dopamine. This simply means that a long-time user may no longer feel the same effect using the same dose the next time, which then leads him to take larger doses to be able to achieve the level of euphoria that he wants.

In other words, continued abuse of China White can become a very deadly habit.

Recent News on China White

A February 2016 report revealed at least 23 deaths linked to heroin overdose. Individuals may have been unknowingly using heroin laced with fentanyl, which has led to their premature deaths.

This is an alarming situation because individuals who may need treatment for pain do not have immediate access to legal medication, leading them to resort to heroin use. What has made this worse is that individuals who purchase these drugs think that they’re buying real heroin.

Deaths linked to heroin abuse are continuously increasing in number in the U.S. Because of this, providing immediate treatment for those who have been hooked in using this substance has become an important concern.

Dangers of China White Use

Just like any designer drugs, taking China White continuously and in large amounts can significantly affect the user’s health. Some of the reasons why individuals choose to take these substances include getting rid of the pain from some medical condition or using it for recreational use. Either way, it provides a sense of relief from pain, which is taken over by an intensely pleasurable and euphoric sensation

Unfortunately, the downside of China White use is an increased risk of addiction.

Just like other heroin users, China White use can pose a high risk of dependency. Repeated use creates tolerance to its effects, which in turn would make the user continue and desire more doses of this substance until the desired effect is reached.

Individuals who have become long-time users of this substance are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using the drug. Such uncomfortable symptoms may be experienced, which may lead the individual to return to his addiction.

The use of China White may affect both the brain and the body. Therefore, apart from experiencing difficult withdrawal symptoms, continued use may reduce the quality of life and cause an untimely death.

Even in small doses, China White can cause depressed breathing, which can lead to fatality. It can become exponentially dangerous when used in combination with other CNS depressants such as alcohol.

The following are adverse effects from China White use:

  • Changes in heart rate
  • Decreased immunity
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Hallucinations
  • Mood disorders
  • Prolonged sedation
  • Respiratory depression
  • Death

Between 2005 and 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported more than 1000 deaths linked to heroin use that have been unknowingly laced with fentanyl. A dose of more than 2 mg of China White can already be fatal. Combining it with other substances is equally fatal.

China White withdrawal symptoms can be more severe than heroin withdrawal and may include:

  • Flu-like chills and muscle aches
  • Severe cravings for the drug
  • Profuse sweating
  • Changes in appetite
  • Confusion
  • Rapid breathing
  • Mood changes
  • Extreme irritability

In another report, about 34 individuals were prosecuted for allegedly selling China White for $7-10 a dose – a very inexpensive amount at the cost of human health.

Diagnosis and Testing for China White Use

Despite overdosing on fentanyl and its other derivatives, standard drug tests may yield negative results. To rely on a basic urine drug test may not be sufficient. Because of this, other diagnostic methods should be done to confirm fentanyl or China White use of the individual:

  • Pulse oximetry and ABGs: Used for monitoring respiratory status.
  • Electrocardiography: Important in assessing and management heart failure.
  • Imaging/X-ray: Useful in determining any pulmonary symptoms.
  • Laboratory testing: Includes obtaining electrolytes, creatinine, BUN, glucose and salicylate concentration.

Treatment for China White Use

The standard treatment given to individuals with opioid overdose is naloxone, which is very helpful in lifting the patient out of opioid intoxication. However, with China White overdose, a single dose of naloxone may not be enough. The withdrawal symptoms of individuals may be so severe that it may require the individual to be under naloxone treatment for several days.

Some reports revealed that China White sold in the streets may contain other agents like dry fecal matter, which may lead to other conditions that need a different kind of treatment. In this kind of case, it would be best to trace the source of China White so that its contents can be determined. From there, appropriate treatment options may be formulated, depending on the actual composition.

Final Word

The government and the rest of society should be more vigilant in battling the propagation of designer drugs. This includes sharing of information about the dangers of China White and other designer drugs, as well as being on top of your family’s personal and emotional concerns. This way, the supply of illicit drugs may run out and that long-time users may hopefully resort to restoring their health.

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