In response to the continual rates of overdose deaths among the state, California will now be distributing test strips for the fatal drug Fentanyl starting this month. Every year, thousands of people are dying from overdose due to this deadly drug, and the main problem is that most of these people are completely unaware that they are even doing the drug.
Fentanyl has become so widespread as a cutting agent for other drugs, some people have even found it lacing their marijuana and cocaine. It has sparked massive debate around import and export trade between China and Mexico with the U.S., and it has helped spark several legal cases between multiple states and the pharmaceutical company that originally produced the drug.
The dangers of the deadly drug Fentanyl is that even just a few small particles of the drug mixed into another drug can be enough to immediately send a person into overdose. Due to this massive wave of Fentanyl in the state of California, their overdose deaths due to the drug have tripled between 2016 and 2017.
The Test Strips
California is not the only state to be using the strips, as New York has been using them as well. They are produced by the biotechnology company based out of Toronto named BTNX. So far, they are only distributed to governments and harm reduction programs to then be divided and distributed to communities. As of now, California is the companies largest consumer, reports CEO and founder of BTNX, Iqbal Sunderani.
They are easy to use and pretty inexpensive to produce. The user simply mixes a small portion of their drug into water, and then dip the strip into that fluid for a few seconds. If the fluid is positive for Fentanyl, the strip will display one solid single line, and if it is negative for the fluid, the strip will show two solid lines.
What California is Doing
As one of the more proactive states in the nation, California already has 45 functioning needle exchanges. This will be the jumping off point for much of the distribution of these test strips. Since BTNX only distributes to state governments and harm reduction programs, these needle exchanges will most likely become the number one distributors of these test strips.
One of the first steps in raising awareness about the deadly drug, according to the executive director of Los Angeles Community Health Project, a needle exchange in Hollywood, is to warn people about the dangers and prevalence of the drug and to follow that up with instructions on how to use the test strips.
According to Marquesen, “The overdose rates in Hollywood are through the roof, the keep rising every month.” He also states that so far, the Fentanyl test strips have shown that 40 percent of the heroin in and around the Hollywood area contains some amount of Fentanyl.
Although the strips have yet to be approved by federal regulators, their benefits include that they are readily available for those who want them, and they are a preventative measure from switching over to another drug to get people to stop using heroin.
However, some experts still have a concern around the strips, their efficacy, and their long-term effects on the problem. Dr. Daniel Ciccarone, a UC San Francisco professor who studies heroin use, reports that the use of the test underscores the severity of the problem.
In other words, is this enough to really turn the tides on the overdose rates?
What Could be the Downsides?
The BTNX Fentanyl test strips were designed to test for pharmaceutical grade Fentanyl, which is not always what is being put out onto the streets. Dr. Gary Tsai, the medical director of Los Angeles County’s substance abuse prevention and control division has announced that the state is looking into making these strips more widely available to the public, with the only downside being how effective they will be on the knock-off grade of Fentanyl that is in most of the street heroin.
Another aspect of the problem here, which not many state officials recognize, is that for many heroin addicts, they are well aware and they know that Fentanyl is now in their heroin. The only problem is that some people just don’t care. When in active addiction, many people are more than willing to take the chance of having Fentanyl in their heroin and have just resorted to doing smaller amounts with the understanding that there is most likely Fentanyl in their product.
Multiple, now clean, heroin addicts were questioned about this topic, to which they responded, “I probably wouldn’t waste my dope on testing it first, I would have just shot a smaller amount knowing that there was probably Fentanyl in it. I can say, I definitely wouldn’t ever just throw my heroin away just because it had Fentanyl in it.”
So are the measures that are being put forward enough to really stop the rising overdose rates, or are they just desperate band-aids being put into action by people who have never had a drug problem and who may not understand the reality of heroin use?
With hope, raised awareness, and widespread access to substance abuse treatment for people who are ready to get the help, these test strips could also be the perfect addition to help some people stop using heroin. Obviously, they will not be enough, but to add them in as another tool in the multifaceted approach that is needed to help stop overdose death and raise awareness on addiction, these test strips could potentially show some users how close they are to death.
Getting Sober With Restore
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