With all of the new, highly addictive, and mysteriously undetectable synthetic opioid drugs flooding into communities all across the country, drug testing for accountability purposes is beginning to feel more and more like an exercise in futility. As a result, families, employers, state courts, and even the best drug rehab centers throughout the country are unfortunately finding themselves tragically manipulated into falsely believing that the addict is on the road to recovery, when in fact they have simply discovered a new chemical cocktail that not only gets them high, but also flies well below the proverbially radar of detection. This then leads to a potentially lethal sense of security with skewed outcomes, where addicts may simply be finding more innovative ways to use and abuse mood altering substances. And by doing so, they are then able to effectively manipulate the system, with dealers, on-line pharmacies, and even overseas chemical compound companies alike struggling to keep up with the demand for their products.

The Fentanyl Effect refers to the fact that there will always be new ways to get high with synthetic drugs, and therefore, an indeterminable amount of time to put in place countermeasures to effectively detect their presence, thereby increasing the probability of an outbreak of use. Whether fentanyl, carfentanil, synthetic cathinones, mdma, lsd, or any other man made substance addicts use to get high, trying to keep up the latest chemical craze to hit the streets of Los Angeles, Bloomington, Philadelphia, Boston, Cleveland, or Miami is almost impossible. Similar to a deadly game of cat and mouse, as soon as you think that coast is clear, another, even more diabolically potent and deadly drug emerges from the shadows.

Nevertheless, those of us stationed on the front lines in the battle against the disease of addiction: counselors, families, employers, and state court judges alike, should not feel defeated. There is hope! There are effective solutions, however, they must be strategic, targeted, and unwavering, while at the same time implemented with understanding, care, and compassion. My recommendation is relatively simple, and at first glance, may even appear naive in nature: Rather than trying to trail the drug, track the symptoms, prevent the outbreak! In other words, we may be wasting a lot of precious time and money combing through all of those hair follicle tests and sending out false positive test results to the lab to be verified to prove whether or not someone is actually clean and sober. In many cases, the cold hard truth is that even if there actually was a trace of fast-acting fentanyl in someone’s urine at the time a sample was collected, any evidence of its presence could easily dilute out on the long hot trip to the lab for confirmation.

Perhaps the best strategy right now to effectively combat the synthetic drug epidemic sweeping across cities like Kansas City, Memphis, Chicago, Akron, and Dallas is to go back to the basics of actually focusing greater attention on treating the underlying issues contributing to the disease of addiction itself, while at the same time, implementing prevention programs that increase awareness, reduce any stigmas associated with the disease, and provide greater access to helpful resources within local communities.

With the Fentanyl Effect in full swing, now more than ever, my belief is that it is imperative to elevate the role of real deal substance abuse treatment back into the forefront of the recovery process. Whether in a brick and mortar residential drug rehab center, an online intensive outpatient program, or even just meeting once a week with a trusted counselor, there is just no substitute for clinical counseling. Although there may be no known cure for the disease of addiction, the treatment experience has the potential to provide all of those impacted with practical proven tools and insight-building solutions to effectively treat the disease at the root. I am in no way suggesting that we should get rid of drug testing altogether, but rather deemphasize its role in the recovery process, at least with regard to compliance and accountability measures.

Recently, there have been an overabundance of news articles about the sinister nature of synthetic opioid drugs like fentanyl, especially following the untimely and tragic passing of Minnesota’s very own musical icon, Prince. Since testing for every new high may not be practical, recognizing the signs and symptoms of the disease of addiction may now be more important than ever before. In our new fast-acting and highly lethal synthetic drug world, we may now have to rely more and more on being able to effectively recognize the warning signs and symptoms of addiction if we have any real chance of going toe to toe with the truly cunning, baffling, and powerful nature of the disease. If we can lose a world renowned musical icon performing right in front of a purple spotlight, imagine how easy it might be losing a loved one in your humble abode just outside of Chicago, Houston, Memphis, or even Milwaukee. From this point forward, I recommend that if you witness any variety of the tell-tale signs and symptoms of addiction listed below, you may want to put that instant drug test aside, and assume that there is a problem requiring immediate attention. Because, when it comes to waging war on addiction, It’s better to jump the gun, then to see it go off unexpectedly! Nodding Off Insomnia Mood Swings Anger Irritability Depression Isolation Changes in Appetite Sudden Changes in Weight Slurred Speech Bloodshot Eyes Dilated Pupils Repetitive Speech Hyperactivity Unsteady Gait Foul Body Odors Unexplained Wounds Delusional Thinking In closing, although it may be impossible to completely reverse the Fentanyl Effect, I firmly believe that it can be adequately contained with proper countermeasures, specifically with regard to those that focus on prevention, intervention, and treatment. Whether skewed, little, or no physical evidence to support any of our suspicions that someone is in fact abusing mood altering substances, we may simply have to push right on through preconceived lines of social etiquette and learn to become more intrusive, proactive, and strategically engaged in the battle against the synthetic drug epidemic.

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