Many drugs that are sold on the street have been tainted with fentanyl, a powerful drug that is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine. For some users, the tainted drug is too powerful. A controversial test strip that can test for fentanyl can save lives, but some people aren’t too excited about it.
Why Test for Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is taking lives faster than any drug before it, and many users accidentally ingest fentanyl when a drug is laced with it. Harm reduction advocates, who afvocate for spafe spaces and less strict drug laws, say this can save countless lives.
The Fentanyl test strip technology was originally developed by a Canadian biotech company BTNX for urine drug testing. The dru strips, however, also work in liquid heroin or when a water is added to empty baggies of cocaine. In other words, it can test for the presence of fentanyl in liquids.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins and Brown University determined the test strips can even detect a small amount of fentanyl in the test strips, which is incredibly useful for harm reduction. After all, just a few grains of fentanyl can be dangerous for a non-opioid user.
“Our findings bring to the table evidence that can inform a public health approach to the fentanyl crisis. Smart strategies that reduce harm can save lives,” said Susan Sherman, a co-author on the study.
Using the Strips
According to the study, there are several programs in the US already using the test strips. In Los Angeles County, first responders and heath care workers discuss the potential risks and benefits of the strips with patients who use street drugs before they give them out.
They are also handy for first responders, who often handle drugs that people have used to overdose.
The test strips aren’t 100% effective at eliminating the risk of overdose and they can’t tell first responder how much fentanyl is present. However, they offer a clue when somebody is unconvcious and the EMT’s are trying to save a life.
Researchers see the test strips as a way to prevent deaths, but they’re now without opponents. Many people worry it’s just another license for drug users to use without consequence. However, when it’s life and death, it’s hard to see why we should keep people with substance use issues from testing for fentanyl.