For many years, individuals would enter addiction treatment due to using, misusing, or abusing a specific substance. For example, a person might seek help and enter rehab for an opioid addiction, an alcohol addiction (or alcoholism), or an addiction to a prescription drug such as Xanax or Valium. Sometimes, individuals would seek addiction treatment for what would be considered or classified as a polysubstance abuse or a “polysubstance use disorder,” which is when a person is using more than one drug or has become addicted to multiple substances, such as when a person would go to rehab for both heroin and benzodiazepines or both alcohol and cocaine.
However, in the last several years, a strange phenomenon has occurred. Individuals struggling with addiction and seeking help at a drug rehab or addiction treatment center, will seek help for a specific substance use issue such as marijuana, cocaine, or prescription drugs like Xanax or Adderall, and instead find that they have developed a physical dependency or addiction to opioids, most often fentanyl. This is often discovered once in rehab, when the patient is drug tested upon admissions and the results come back positive for fentanyl. This can be both shocking and frightening to hear. So, what is occurring where this odd situation is becoming almost normalized throughout addiction treatment centers and drug rehabs nationwide?
What is happening is that people in active addiction buying drugs off the street are purchasing and using substances laced with fentanyl. Often, a person will purchase off the street what they think is a legitimate prescription pill like Xanax, Adderall, or Valium, when in reality those pills are counterfeit pills, created by drug dealers and pressed to look like legitimate prescription pills. And those counterfeit pills being purchased off the street contain fentanyl, or some other type of synthetic opioids. Additionally, people are purchasing illicit drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, or marijuana off the street, unaware that those drugs also contain fentanyl, sometimes even deadly amounts of the powerful synthetic opioid. Most people purchase drugs from the same source, and over time, while a person believes that they are purchasing legitimate prescription pills time and time again, or purchasing illicit substances like cocaine and marijuana, what happens is that purchased consistently uses the substances that contain fentanyl. Like any opioid, and especially with an opioid as powerful as fentanyl, frequent use will create physical dependency. Often unknowingly or unwillingly, through substance use or substance misuse, that person will have developed a physical dependency on opioids due to the consistent use of fentanyl.
That this is found out through initial drug testing that occurs in detox, rehab, or an addiction treatment center can actually be surprising to the patient. Often, they will explain that they don’t use opioids, especially fentanyl, and some will claim to have never used opioids. This is because they were honestly unaware of their fentanyl use. Additionally, many patients begin to vocalize how weird or unnerving it was that they began to develop physical withdrawal symptoms that were unlike those they had ever experienced in the past, when using substances like marijuana, cocaine, or prescription pills. They often begin to understand that they were, once again, physically addicted to opioids and what they were experiencing were opioid withdrawal symptoms.
The danger that people in active addiction are now in when purchasing drugs off the street is that they are unaware of specifically what substances they are purchasing and using. Cocaine is not cocaine, but often rather cocaine laced with fentanyl. Marijuana is not marijuana, but often marijuana laced with fentanyl. Prescription pills off the street like Xanax or Adderall are rarely those prescription pills, but rather counterfeit prescription pills made to look like the real thing, and that often contain fentanyl. And that danger intensifies when someone is using a potentially dangerous opioid like fentanyl without knowing it. They may not have tolerance, or use more of the substance than is safe, and therefore are at a large risk of overdose. The tainted drug supply currently on the street is largely contaminated with highly potent and potentially deadly opioids like fentanyl, and it is causing more and more people in active addiction to find themselves addicted to opioids without knowing it.
Fortunately, here at Innovo Detox, a patient admitting into detox and drug and alcohol treatment has available the necessary medical and clinical help to get them through whatever withdrawals they may be experiencing. A patient that admits for alcohol or cocaine or marijuana and finds that they have fentanyl in their system does not need to worry. The medical team at Innovo Detox is well-versed in caring for people as they begin their treatment and recovery journey from all types of substances, and while finding out that they have been using fentanyl can be worrisome or unnerving for a patient, the skilled team here will make all necessary adjustments to detox protocol to make sure the patient is safely and comfortably supported through detox. What is important is that the patient receives the highest quality medical and therapeutic care to manage their detox and begin their treatment, but that they are also aware of the dangers of returning to active use. Patients must be aware that purchasing drugs off the street, no matter what type of substance it is, puts them at a high risk for fatal or non-fatal opioid overdose, all the more concerning when the individual believes they are purchasing a different type of substance altogether.
If you or someone you know needs help with addiction or co-occurring disorders, please give us a call. Innovo Detox offers the latest in evidence-based medical, psychiatric, and clinical care for those in need of detox and medical stabilization in Pennsylvania and the surrounding Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or a loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a detox, rehab, treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (717) 619-3260 or email our team at [email protected]. For more information on our company or services, please visit our website at www.innovodetox.com.