Last week, DanceSafe began offering fentanyl testing strips for purchase on its website in response to the ever-growing number of deaths related to fentanyl, carfentanil, and other opioid analogues. While the testing strips can identify most fentanyl-related analogues, there are still limitations that every consumer and harm reductionist should be aware of, as discussed in this article by Canada’s CBC.
While there is a concern that the strips could give consumers a false sense of security due to the potential of false negatives, there currently is no better alternative for people who are worried about adulterated drugs. DanceSafe’s original intent was to sell the testing strips for people who inject drugs such as heroin, but there turned out to be a demand for the strips among recreational drug users as well. “We had a lot of people reaching out about how to test cocaine, how to test MDMA,” states DanceSafe’s Executive Director, Mitchell Gomez. “People are deeply concerned about fentanyl being cut into these other substances,” he said.
Gomez and other health officials agree that people who inject drugs such as heroin are still likely to inject the substance even if it tests positive for fentanyl, but will oftentimes choose to do so in smaller, less riskier doses. This is why it makes sense to have the fentanyl testing strips available to the general public and at safe injection facilities. “Being able to provide these strips at a safe injection site, where there’s nurses on site, where there’s Narcan on site, is obviously far better than just giving users the strips,” said Gomez. “It’s undeniable that it’s better to do it as part of a broader harm reduction service but I think that anything that moves us in that direction is a positive thing.”
While no one claims that harm reduction can eliminate the risks of substance use, it can mitigate those risks, and an important part of the process is knowing what substances it is that a user is consuming.