Fentanyl continues to be a deadly drug threat in the United States. The CDC reports that more than 107,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2021, with 66% related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. 1 Many times, fentanyl is mixed with other drugs, and the users don’t even know that they are taking the drug, which may lead to an overdose. Because of this, some believe using fentanyl test strips can help. These strips can serve as a source of overdose prevention but do not negate the need for other harm reduction strategies and fentanyl addiction treatment.
As we look at the use of fentanyl test strips and their availability, we’re also going to look at what else can be done to prevent drug overdose deaths related to fentanyl, such as opioid rehab in Arizona.
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The Dangers of Fentanyl
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that can treat patients suffering from chronic pain following surgery. It is estimated to be 80 times more potent than morphine and hundreds of times more powerful than heroin. 2 Fentanyl depresses the central nervous system and respiratory function. When not taken as prescribed, fentanyl can be fatal. This is why it has led to many overdose deaths over the years and continues to be a growing problem.
What are Fentanyl Test Strips?
Fentanyl test strips were created in 2011 by the biotech company BTNX. They are small strips of paper that can detect whether fentanyl is present in any batch of drugs, whether they are pills, powders, or injectables. 3
The idea behind the test strips is to educate people about what may be lurking in the drugs they take. These test strips could prevent people from overdosing on fentanyl that they may unknowingly put in their bodies. But, it’s important to note that fentanyl test strips do not measure the quantity or potency of fentanyl present in any given drug sample.
Since their creation, the test strips have been mainly distributed at harm-reduction programs. They are also available through a distributor’s website and sometimes at retail outlets. In 2021, the government announced that federal funding can now be used to purchase fentanyl test strips for public health purposes, research, or clinical purposes. 3
While they are allowed in many areas, they are illegal in nearly 20 states where they are considered drug paraphernalia.
How Do Fentanyl Test Strips Work
The test strips are easy to use. You simply need to dip the strip into water containing a small amount of the well-mixed drug residue and wait a few minutes for the result. 3 One line signifies the presence of fentanyl in the substance, while two red lines mean it is not apparent. Based on these results, a person can know if the drugs they are taking have been laced with fentanyl and can decide not to take them.
Are Fentanyl Test Strips Effective?
Since fentanyl test strips provide information about a specific drug sample, it is still up to the individual whether they want to consume the sample based on the findings. Research has shown that using fentanyl test strips can be effective.
Consider these findings: 4
- One study involving a community-based fentanyl test strip distribution program in North Carolina found that 81% of those with access to the strips did use them to test their drugs. Those with positive test results were five times more likely to change their drug use behavior and prevent overdose.
- A study of young adults in Rhode Island who reported using heroin, cocaine, or illicitly obtained prescription pills reported a positive change in their behavior when a positive result emerged.
But, critics argue that the test strips allow people to take drugs still when they discover there is no fentanyl present.
Other Harm Reduction Strategies
Besides fentanyl test strips, other harm reduction strategies have shown to be effective for overdose prevention.
Narcan or Naloxone is an FDA-approved medication used to reverse opioid overdose quickly. Narcan is the nasal spray version of the medicine. As it enters the body, it works to bind to opioid receptors to reverse and block the effects of opioids. Narcan can restore normal breathing to someone whose breath has slowed due to an opioid overdose.
Preventing Fentanyl Abuse
Regarding harm reduction strategies, fentanyl test strips and Narcan can be essential tools in overdose prevention. But other work still needs to be done.
Both fentanyl test strips and Narcan are tools used to help people who have already decided to take drugs. They don’t treat drug use or addiction.
Fentanyl addiction treatment and other substance abuse treatments are vital to prevent drug use and overdose prevention. Getting to the root of the addiction and dealing with the underlying causes is the primary way to avoid an opioid use disorder or other types of substance abuse disorder.
Many times, reasons for drug use can include:
- Peer pressure
- Mental Health Issues
- Escape Mechanism
- Family and Work demands
Determining what led a person to start using drugs in the first place is instrumental in treating drug abuse. Whether it’s a mental health issue that needs dealing with or another problem, understanding this and dealing with it is the only way to help someone battling a substance abuse problem.
When mental health issues are present, a person can benefit from different forms of therapy and sometimes prescribed medications. At Desert Cove Recovery, we offer dual diagnosis treatment to simultaneously help people dealing with substance use disorder and mental health issues.
Fentanyl Addiction Treatment and Drug Treatment at Desert Cove Recovery
At Desert Cove Recovery, we help people with fentanyl and other drug addiction by providing effective opioid rehab in Arizona. Our services include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Individual and group counseling
- Holistic treatments
- Referral to a detox program
We recognize that each person’s addiction is different, so our team works to create a program tailored to the individual. Call us today or contact us online to learn more about our services and how an opioid rehab program at Desert Cove Recovery can help.
Sources: https://www.dea.gov/press-releases/2022/08/30/dea-warns-brightly-colored-fentanyl-used-target-young-americans  https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ershdb/emergencyresponsecard_29750022.html  https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/forefront.20210601.974263/  4. https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/opioids/documents/ftsforph.pdf