SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Even drug users who’d never want to touch Fentanyl are being blindsided that somebody blended it in, and a drug testing expert is finding these incidences have skyrocketed.
Everyday people getting urine tested are finding out they’ve ingested Fentanyl, said Kelly Olson, the Director of Clinical Affairs at Millennium Health, a drug testing laboratory, who has an expertise background in molecular neuro-pharmacology.
It’s a wrinkle to increased Fentanyl case numbers.
It’s more than being pressed into pills that mimic Oxycodone.
Fentanyl powder is thrown into usually pure illegal drugs. It’s shown up in patients who have taken
Adderall, methamphetamine, and cocaine, and especially heroin, Millennium Health’s data says.
Trouble is, "either people are not ready for it, or they have a stimulant use disorder and now have an opioid use disorder" on top, Olson said.
From 3,500 urine tests analyzed in Snohomish County, co-positive drug results that include Fentanyl have increased more than 450% in the first half of 2022 compared to all of 2019, the company says.
Urine is one of the few bodily fluids which tells all.
Fentanyl stays in urine for a few days before clearing out. For comparison, its timespan is much shorter in blood tests and is undetectable in saliva.
It’s one reason why urine tests are used for monitoring if people are staying clean and sober while undergoing substance use disorder programs. Other times, tests are part of a medical diagnosis.
Millennium’s data does not include workplace drug tests.
Often, clinicians are just as surprised as patients by the test findings, Olson said.
They may be lucky they are talking with the patient to begin with. Many overdose.
Sixty-eight people have died in 2022 in Snohomish County due to Fentanyl as of June, from numbers in a Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s office drug overdose database. Twenty-one of those were in the 30 to 39 age range, but all age groups logged Fentanyl deaths. Four of the deaths were people in the 70 to 79 age range.
Olson is hearing first-hand how Fentanyl’s spread is frustrating clinicians and counselors. “Everybody is tired, everybody’s frustrated. You can see it in their eyes. They want to help their patients.”
Fentanyl’s risks are clear.
The Drug Enforcement Agency outlines that Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin. “Just two milligrams of Fentanyl, which is equal to 10-15 grains of table salt, is considered a lethal dose,” the agency says, and “Without laboratory testing, there is no way to know how much Fentanyl is concentrated in a pill or powder.”
University of Washington researchers found Fentanyl overdose deaths are more prominent among three populations: Young adults inexperienced with opioids, young adults with opioid-use disorder and older adults with ongoing opioid-use disorder.
Because Fentanyl can be cooked into an injectable liquid, long-term heroin users will gravitate to it, lead investigator Caleb Banta-Green predicted in a press release about the report.
Worse, this summer the Drug Enforcement Agency recently warned of brightly-colored Fentanyl it says is “made to look like candy to children and young people.”
Fentanyl is “like an opponent with the lights off — you don’t know what you’re fighting,” Olson said.
It means “you can’t trust what you’re getting” from either the streets or from friends, she said. “You have to assume there is the possibility of some Fentanyl in that product.”
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