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Study Looks at Testing Strips to Prevent Overdose Death

Posted On: 02-16-2018
Study Looks at Testing Strips to Prevent Overdose Death
Fentanyl is often laced into street drugs, and as a result, it has been found to be a factor in many opioid overdoses. The drug is often pressed into prescription drugs or cut into heroin and cocaine. When the fentanyl is laced into drugs, users often do not know the potency of the substances that they are using. A team of researchers at Rhode Island Hospital/Brown University, along with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, set out to discover a way for users to test drugs for fentanyl beforehand.

The researchers looked at using BTNX fentanyl testing strips, a technology that is similar to a litmus test and is also low-cost. Additionally, the researchers polled drug users to find out if they would take advantage of the availability of the tool.

When compared to other machines that are used to detect fentanyl in substances, the strips were found to have the lowest detection limit (the amount of fentanyl that could be traced) and the highest rates of specificity and sensitivity (signaling whether fentanyl was not present or present).

The team polled 335 regular drug users and found that 84% expressed concern over whether the drugs they were using contained fentanyl. Seven out of ten of those polled indicated that they would modify their actions if fentanyl were detected in their substances—either by not using that substances at all, taking it to someone who has access to Narcan (the overdose antidote), or consuming it at a slower pace.

These findings could be effective in helping to prevent drug overdoses. The researchers hope that those still battling addiction can avoid accidental overdoses. The study’s co-author and a professor at Johns Hopkins, Susan Sherman, said, “We need to embrace the full range of interventions that can save lives.” In 2016, 64,000 individuals died from drug overdose. According to estimates, fentanyl contributed to 20,000 of those deaths.

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