A bipartisan measure to legalize the use of fentanyl test strips was signed into law on June 27, taking effect July 1. Previously, fentanyl test strips were considered “drug paraphernalia” and were therefore illegal to own. This is a major victory for advocates in the recovery arena.
The dangers of fentanyl have been exacerbated over the last few years. Fentanyl itself is a powerful opioid, 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Overdose and death from fentanyl can happen at levels of about two milligrams. In April 2021, the DEA reported that over 42% of pills tested for fentanyl have at least two milligrams of the drug.
It is impossible to know if any drug contains fentanyl without testing it. Fentanyl testing is one of the primary harm reduction strategies in addressing the rise of overdoses in the United States. Harm reduction seeks to ensure that people who use drugs are using them safely to avoid overdose or other major issues related to drug use. In addition to fentanyl test strips, needle exchange and provision of safe injection materials and safe injection sites are primary components of harm reduction.
Because of the prevalence of fentanyl in the drug supply, all drug users are encouraged to test their drugs before using them. Fentanyl test strips indicate if the drugs contain fentanyl, but not how much fentanyl they contain. Drug users are encouraged to dispose of any drugs that test positive for fentanyl.
Sexual minorities, including LGBTQ individuals, are almost twice as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to misuse opioids. “Minority stress” contributes to increased use of substances. Minority stress is an umbrella term that refers to the issues that come with discrimination, violence, and disparities associated with a minority status. Methamphetamine use is common in the LGBTQ community among those with male-to-male sexual contact.
Legalizing fentanyl test strips is an important step to ending the opioid crisis.