Fentanyl Test Strips Grow in Popularity Among Public Health Service Providers

Drugs & Alcohol - Most Recent - News
Written by: on 12th March, 2018

As reports surrounding fentanyl overdoses continue piling up nationwide, a higher number of public health service providers are turning to fentanyl test strips. The strips, which cost only $1 each, can detect the presence of fentanyl in street drugs like heroin and cocaine. Data shows that most users who learn that their drugs contain fentanyl either reduce their doses, or use the drug with someone who can help in the event of an overdose.

What Are Fentanyl Test Strips, and How Do They Work?

fentanyl test strips

Fentanyl test strips are low-tech devices that resemble and work similarly to pregnancy tests. The strips can be purchased individually or in packs that contain multiple strips, and can even be purchased in bulk amounts so they can be distributed by safe injection sites and public health service providers. The strips have the ability to detect fentanyl in doses of injected drugs like heroin, and in non-injected drugs like counterfeit pain pills and crystal meth.

Before using a test strip, a small amount of the drug being tested is made to dissolve in a small amount of water. The strip is then placed into the drug-water mixture until liquid travels to the test area on the strip. After two minutes, the strip can reveal whether fentanyl is present, and displays one red line for a positive result, and two red lines for a negative result.

Public health scientist Jon Zibbell from RTI International says one main limitation of using fentanyl test strips is that they fail to inform users of the amount of fentanyl present in their drugs. However, a recent John Hopkins study found that when compared to two other fentanyl detection products, the $1 test strips were most reliable at detecting fentanyl — offering 100% accuracy in test samples from Baltimore and 96% accuracy in test samples from Rhode Island. The test strips were also found to be the most user-friendly and cost-effective option compared to other fentanyl testing methods.

What Are the Benefits of Using Fentanyl Test Strips?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid up to 50 times stronger than heroin, and was responsible for roughly two-thirds of the 64,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2016. Some versions of fentanyl are so strong they can instantly trigger an overdose. Many drug users don’t know they’re using fentanyl until it’s too late, since drug dealers are starting to mix fentanyl with other drugs to offer users a more powerful high.

Public health service providers and harm reductionists can use fentanyl test strips to prevent drug users from suffering unintentional overdoses. Many times, fentanyl overdose can lead to coma or death, which prevents drug users from gaining another chance to seek treatment and become clean.

Harm reductionist Jess Tilley from Northampton, Massachusetts says many users in her area who detect fentanyl in their drug supplies are either reducing their doses, or using drugs with someone who can intervene in the event of an accidental overdose. Results from the John Hopkins study are consistent with Tilley’s comments, and reveal that 70% of study respondents would reduce their doses, use the drugs with others who have naloxone, or would avoid using the drugs at all if they learned fentanyl was present.

Next Steps if You’re Struggling with Opioid Addiction

Opioid overdoses kill an estimated 115 people in the U.S. every day, while another two million Americans are living with opioid use disorder. If you’re suffering from opioid addiction, understand that you’re not alone, and that your next step is to safely overcome physical dependence on heroin, painkillers, and all other opioids.

Opioid addiction can be safely treated using a medical detox or medication-assisted treatment at a nearby drug detox center. These detox methods involve the use of medications that relieve your opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms so you can recover from addiction with less pain and discomfort. These medications can be administered in a structured, supportive inpatient or residential detox center, or at an outpatient detox center that allows you to care for your family or go to work while receiving therapy.

If you are suffering from opioid addiction and need help finding treatment, call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 800-483-2193 to speak with an addiction counselor. We’ll discuss all your detox treatment and payment options, and help you find the best detox center ready to help you achieve sobriety.