WASHINGTON D.C. — Federal funding can now to be used to buy test strips that show if the dangerous synthetic opioid fentanyl is in a drug before a person takes it.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the fentanyl test strips (FTS) can help curb the huge spike in drug overdose deaths around the country.
Around 88,000 people in the U.S. died of a drug overdose from August 2019 to August 2020, according to the CDC, and many cases were linked to fentanyl.
The CDC said fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and a person may not know it’s been cut or mixed into the drug they are about to take.
For advocates focused on fighting addiction, the announcement is a major step in the right direction.
Gary Mendell lost his 25-year-old son Brian to his battle with addiction almost ten years ago.
“They have a disease and they need to be treated in the same way as someone with any other disease,” Mendell said.
Brian’s last conversation at home with his dad sparked Mendell’s mission to form Shatterproof, an organization dedicated to ending the stigma around addiction and helping people affected by addiction.
“He looked at me and he said, ‘dad, I just wish someday people would realize I’m not a bad person. I’m a good person with a bad disease,” Mendell said.
Mendell and public health officials are hoping the FTS can help save lives.
“If they see there’s fentanyl in it, they may not take the drug,” Mendell said. “There are those who would argue why are we trying to help someone take a drug, but it all falls into the category of harm reduction.”
The FTS gives quick results.
You dip the stick in water, and it will then tell you if the drug has been cut or mixed with fentanyl.
The CDC said fentanyl is being discovered in more and more drugs.
“I think a lot of people think fentanyl is just in heroin or opioids but now we’re seeing it mixed in things like cocaine and methamphetamine,” said Deb Houry, Director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at CDC.
The funding for the FTS will go to state overdose response programs.
It will be up to each state and local agency to determine how people can get a hold of the FTS.
It could be distributed through health departments or community organizations.