Fentanyl Is Deadly
A new study reveals deaths from the synthetic opioid fentanyl skyrocketed more than 1,000%from 2011 to 2016, with deaths practically doubling every year starting in 2014. The study also found that by 2016, men were more than three times more likely to die of fentanyl use than women. And while deaths rose in every age group, the largest increase in death rates was among younger people, between ages 15 and 34. These staggering numbers are just another piece of the deadly puzzle of opioid abuse that lawmakers and medical professionals are scrambling to solve. The CDC confirmed last year that fentanyl is now the deadliest drug in America.
A Test to Prevent Overdose
ACR Health now has a tool that can detect fentanyl in substances before they are injected. The “new” tool is actually a standard urine drug test strip traditionally used to screen for the drug Fentanyl in urine samples. Now ACR Health is using the test strips to save lives.
Under ideal conditions, the strips work like this: Once a substance such as heroin has been prepared in a sterile, never before used container called a cooker, the shot is drawn into a sterile, never before used syringe, and then set aside.
More water is added to the cooker, in order to test the residue for the presence of Fentanyl. The test strip is dipped in the liquid for 15 seconds, then laid across the cooker to process for about 5 minutes to receive the results.
Fentanyl test strips are available at ACR Health Syringe Exchanges.
If one line appears, Fentanyl is present. Two lines (in the center) indicate that there is no Fentanyl in the solution. One drawback to the test strips is that they give no indication of how much Fentanyl is present. However, they are very useful in helping people wo use injection drugs to reduce their risk of overdose.
“The fact that the substance might come up as fentanyl usually does not deter the person from using it, but they will likely start with a test shot or a lower dose and adjust,” said ACR Health Syringe Exchange Program Manager Roberto Gonzalez. “This is an opportunity for discussion and allowing people to have some ownership over their use.”
Insurance company covering the cost
The strips cost about $1 per test and are being paid for by a $2,000 grant from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “This grant demonstrates our corporate commitment to support local organizations that share our mission as a nonprofit health plan,” said Eve VandeWal, regional president of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. “We are dedicated to developing and growing relationships with agencies that work to enhance quality of life, including health status, in upstate New York.”
ACR Health began distributing the test strips in January to people who use opioids. The strips have gained acceptance in the community and so far, nearly a hundred individuals are regularly using them to help guard against overdose.
“It is still a new strategy for the clients we serve. Fentanyl has become so widespread it can be present in almost any drug,” Gonzalez said, “and people need to be very careful.” Gonzalez recommends that everyone test each new batch at least once so they know what they are using.