While the decreasing supply of illicit substances available on the streets may seem like a good thing, it is manifesting new risks in our society. The effects brought upon by the upheaval of daily norms extend beyond modifying our routines.
One group in particular who may be experiencing uneasiness during this transition are people struggling with substance use disorders. According to Heidi Ginter, CMO of the Recovery Centers of America, there may be “additional potency of drugs available on the street [as well as] people whose tolerance has changed based on what they’ve been using.” It is not unlikely that these factors could lead to an alteration in the brain chemistries of people who were adept at using substances frequently.
As the COVID-19 outbreak grew into a pandemic, borders closed between many countries. Manufacturing plants around the world shut down and no industry was spared from supply chain constrictions. Closures of fentanyl production facilities in Wuhan, China slowed the production processes of many cartels.
To mitigate supply issues and serve customers, local drug dealers may alter dosages distributed to clients in order to spread their product out. At the same time, the virus’s spread prompted to stay at home orders in many large cities. Streets cleared and people sheltered in place. Access to simple things like taking a trip to the corner became more difficult. Because of this inaccessibility, people who were previously using substances on a frequent basis before the pandemic may have been forced to cut back on their intake. By doing so, their body’s tolerance for the levels of drugs they once consumed is lessened. People who have reduced their use of opioids may be at especially high risk if they start using again because of this reduction intolerance.
The worry is that as society gets back into motion, people purchasing these substances may no longer be getting that same quality they were once using. Furthermore, it is uncertain how their bodies will react to any intake after a prolonged disruption or cessation of usage. It is not unlikely that people who have relied on substances are experiencing changes within their brain chemistry as their bodies attempt to adapt to the new normal of access to drugs.
These concerns over new dosages and products leading to potentially new reactions to illicit substances have led to talks of increasing naloxone distribution. Naloxone is a medication used to try to reverse an overdose. Emergency services across the country are creating new protocols for administering naloxone while protecting themselves from exposure to the virus. Now, more than ever, providing support to those struggling with addiction will prove imperative in the fight to save lives during the critical time.