Study: Fentanyl testing strips may help reduce overdoses among drug users

Low-cost testing strips designed to detect fentanyl — a highly potent synthetic opioid often cut into street drugs — may help reduce rising drug overdose rates in the United States, according to a study backed by the Bloomberg American Health Initiative.

For the study, researchers first assessed the efficacy of the testing strips. When compared to two other testing technologies, the strips proved most effective at accurately detecting fentanyl.Next, researchers surveyed 335 drug users from Baltimore, Boston and Providence, R.I. Eighty-four percent of respondents were concerned the drugs they used contained fentanyl. Among the 256 respondents who reported likely fentanyl use, 85 percent said they'd wished they'd known about the drug's presence beforehand. Seventy percent of respondents said knowing about the presence of fentanyl would cause them to either not use the drugs, use the drugs more slowly or use the drugs around someone with the antioverdose drug naloxone. 

Lastly, researchers interviewed 32 representatives from organizations that work with drug users. These individuals supported the idea of drug checking as a form of harm reduction, but had some questions about the legality of such a program.

"Service providers supported drug checking as a way to connect with people who use drugs, provide education, and potentially engage them in other services, including syringe services programs and treatment for substance use disorder," wrote the study's authors. "Key informants identified additional issues about the implementation of drug checking services, including the potential legal liability and possible security risks of performing the drug checking (such as attracting law enforcement), especially at the point of service."

More articles on opioids: 
How opioid-free anesthesia and multimodal pain management can improve care and address a public health crisis 
Indiana county files opioid epidemic lawsuit against 20+ drugmakers, distributors 
Tennessee Medical Association outlines opposition to governor's opioid plan

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