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Fentanyl Overdose and Fentanyl Test Strips: 4 Important Facts

By Jennifer Daluro
Fentanyl test strips help combat fentanyl overdose and overdose deaths. Read on to learn about this potentially life-saving tool.

Overdose deaths caused by synthetic opioids like fentanyl saw a sharp rise in 2015 and the years immediately following it, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The year 2019 alone recorded an estimated number of 36,359 deaths associated with synthetic opioids, principally fentanyl. Fentanyl test strips help combat the opioid epidemic by preventing fentanyl ingestion and overdose. Read on for four key facts about how this tool can help.

Fentanyl test strips can detect fentanyl and its analogs.

You have no way of knowing what your street drug contains. If it comes mixed with even a small amount of fentanyl, it could be lethal. The Drug Enforcement Administration notes that even 2 mg of fentanyl can be dangerous.

According to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, fentanyl test strips can detect as little as 0.125 micrograms/ml of fentanyl. These strips also detect the presence of fentanyl analogs.

Additionally, a 2018 study published by the International Journal of Drug Policy found that these strips are highly sensitive to the drug, with about 96% to 100% accuracy.

“Fentanyl test strips are an evidence-based way of avoiding substance overdose,” Boris MacKey, Addiction Therapist at Rehab 4 Addiction, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “They are small strips of paper that detect the presence of fentanyl in any batch of drugs, whether it be powder form, pill form, or injectable form.”

Researchers have documented harm reduction after fentanyl test strip use.

Drug traffickers often cut street drugs like cocaine with fentanyl. While this reduces costs by rendering drugs more potent, fentanyl introduces pronounced dangers for users and increases the risk of overdose and overdose fatality.

Fentanyl test strips allow you to detect the presence of fentanyl before using a substance. According to a 2020 study published in Addictive Behaviors, the strips have helped prevent adverse fentanyl side effects.

The study participants reduced their overdose risk by employing harm reduction strategies like doing tester shots or decreasing the amount of drug used after employing fentanyl test strips. Many participants also secured someone to check on them for adverse side effects after using the test strips, thereby lowering their risk of encountering harm.

Fentanyl test strips offer fast results.

Drug addiction puts your health and life at risk, but fentanyl test strips help give you some control over your substance use disorder. While pursuing professional treatment for substance use disorder is always the best choice for addressing an addiction, fentanyl test strips can be used as a safety measure by those who have not yet gotten treatment. 

Using fentanyl test strips only takes about five minutes—from testing the drug to reading results. And detecting fentanyl in illicit drugs allows you to make safer choices.

“Fentanyl test strips are a very important part of the harm reduction practice and can help to inform and increase awareness of overdose prevention, especially in young people,” says MacKey. “They are rapid and inexpensive tests that can quickly identify the presence of fentanyl before any substances are consumed.” 

Fentanyl test strips are easy to use.

Fentanyl test strips offer a fast, convenient, discreet, and easy way of checking for fentanyl in illicit drugs.

According to Brown University, you can use fentanyl test strips before drug use. You'll need to dissolve a sample of the liquid or powdered drug into water and dip the strip into it. You can also use fentanyl test strips after drug use by dipping it into your urine. Typically, one line means the drug contains fentanyl, and two lines mean it doesn't contain fentanyl.

Fentanyl test strips help prevent fentanyl overdose caused by substance abuse. They can also help you make more informed, safer, and healthier decisions. Fentanyl and the misuse of opioids can have serious and lethal effects. And a test strip alerting you to the presence of something that could end your life might be just what you need as motivation to seek professional treatment.

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