Fentanyl test strips in high demand, but hard to find

Fentanyl test strips in high demand, but hard to find

Dependency on drugs is fast becoming a normal feature. With the number of drug users increasing on a daily basis, there is also a sharp rise in overdose fatalities. In an effort to control an overdose, harm-reduction workers are nowadays using a tool to help drug abusers avoid death. This tool or drug test strips are able to detect the presence of fentanyl.

There have been regular calls to the Ontario-based biotechnology company BTNX, which offers the testing kits, by distraught parents who have lost their children to fentanyl overdose. They have been eager to get their hands on drug testing strips, which are said to detect the presence of fentanyl. However, CEO of the company, Iqbal Sunderani, says he is forced to turn them down.

The strips had initially been marketed to labs and police agencies and were not intended to be sold as a tool to help combat the opioid crisis. In 2016, BTNX sold 75,000 of the fentanyl test strips, whereas this figure crossed 200,000 till November 2017. A large number of the strips have been sold to harm-reduction workers in Canada and the United States, who use them off label to test street drugs for fentanyl.

Pilot project

The drug testing strips were part of a research conducted by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) at Insite, a supervised injection site in the Canadian city. According to the study, people were less likely to overdose after testing. Mark Lysyshyn, a medical health officer with VCH, says, “They are about 10 times more likely to reduce their dose if they get a positive drug check, and then that makes them about 25 percent less likely to overdose.”

Even though the possibility is high that in spite of a positive test, many drug users could still take fentanyl-laced products. However, they could be encouraged to use it more cautiously. The drug test strip is a qualitative test for the detection of fentanyl in human urine.

The testing strips may be relatively inexpensive and this factor may seem to attract the attention and interest of concerned families and individuals. But the strips come with their own set of limitations. To begin with, these strips only test for the presence of fentanyl, but does not shed light on exactly how much of the drug is present.

Though there had been uncertainty about what the test could detect, BTNX now says it’s capable of finding fentanyl and 10 of its analogs, including the highly toxic carfentanil. Experts have stated that more research is needed to determine what exactly went into the illicit drugs as the analogs they can manufacture synthetically could change just like that.

Health Canada and the College of Pharmacists in Manitoba intervened when a pharmacy in Winnipeg started selling the test strips, which were originally intended for doctors, who wanted to keep a close watch and make sure that their patients were taking their prescribed pain medication by testing their urine. But the opioid crisis changed all this. There emerged a huge demand from people, who suddenly wanted to test the drugs themselves for fentanyl.

Seeking treatment

Harm-reduction activist Jess Tilley from Massachusetts spent many years doing street outreach, spending thousands of dollars from her own pocket to buy and distribute the test strips. She has been particularly targeting recreational drug users, more so after a number of college students in the state overdosed on cocaine laced with fentanyl.

Drug addiction is widespread across the U.S. Timely intervention and proper medical help can go a long way in treating drug abuse. Many times one is not sure which direction to turn to for help in coping with addiction. If you are addicted to any kind of drugs, contact the California Drug Addiction Helpline to know about reputed drug rehabilitation centers in California. Call our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1946 to get details of some of the finest drug rehab centers in California or chat online for expert advice.

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