Fentanyl test strips and the fight against the opioid crisis


FREDERICK, Md. (WDVM) — Death by opioids is the leading cause of death in people under 50. In an effort to combat the statistics, fentanyl test strips are being offered by a local center.

According to preliminary data from the state, in 2018, there were 2,114 overdose deaths in the state of Maryland.

On top of that, the state of Maryland ranks in the top 5 for opioid-related overdose death rates with the largest increase attributed to cases involving synthetic opioids, mainly fentanyl.

Fentanyl is an extremely lethal drug. It is more potent than heroin and 50x’s more powerful than morphine. What makes it so deadly is the fact that crosses the brain barrier faster than heroin, resulting a shorter and stronger but faster high. And the shorter the high, the more times users will use it per day. All of that is the perfect recipe for an overdose.

On average, in Frederick County there’s about one opioid-related overdose every day and one fatal opioid-related overdose per week. With this ongoing epidemic, Frederick County behavioral health services now offers fentanyl test strips.

“Research has supported the effectiveness of individuals using the testing strips to check the presence of Fentanyl, as well it has shown that individuals are willing to change their behavior if they know that Fentanyl is present,” said Syringe Services Coordinator, Jessica Ellis.

The strips are pretty simple to use. In order for the user to use them, they take a little bit of their drug supply, and mix it with sterile water and then dip the strip into the water. In just a matter of seconds, they will get their results, which could lead to other prevention strategies.

Officials say discontinuing drug use is extremely difficult.

As difficult as it is to stop abusing drugs, many are left wondering, “Is this new strip enabling users to keep on going”? Officials say no.

“We’re not convincing someone to start using drugs because the access is there”, said Jay Hessler, a coordinator with the Local Behavioral Health Bureau. “We’re not making it easier on them or convincing them to use drugs. They’re going to continue using drugs, regardless of whether they have fentanyl test strips or not. Providing them the means to use in a safer manner for both them and our community, just gives them more opportunity to get into recovery.”

Officials say it is hard to track how effective these strips are because users get them anonymously, but with the feedback they’ve gotten so far, even one success story is a win for them.

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