We’ve provided fentanyl test strips through our Syringe Services program since January 2022. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services recently announced the distribution of more than 120,000 fentanyl test strips statewide to help prevent drug overdose deaths. We received 10,000 test strips as part of this distribution. You may be wondering, what is fentanyl, what are these test strips, and how do they help reduce drug overdose deaths? Keep reading to find out.

Fentanyl can be deadly to people who use drugs.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. There are two types of fentanyl:

  • The kind doctors prescribe in hospitals to treat severe pain. Doctors might prescribe it after surgery or for people with late-stage cancers. Doctors keep a very close eye on patients who are on fentanyl, as it can reduce breathing rates to low levels.
  • The kind added to other drugs sold illicitly to make them cheaper, stronger and more dangerous. The CDC states that when someone has unknown amounts of fentanyl in their system without medical supervision; they are at high risk of overdose.

Many people who use drugs may be unaware they’re buying drugs with fentanyl and even if they are aware, tiny changes in the amount of fentanyl included can lead to overdose.

In fact, according to our most recent Overdose Fatality Review, in Dane County, the most common substance found in people who died of a drug overdose in 2020 was fentanyl.

Fentanyl test strips are a tool to help reduce the number of people who are dying from drug overdose.

There are ways to practice safer drug use, including testing drugs for fentanyl. To do this, you dissolve a small amount of the drug in water and then dip the test strip into the liquid for 15 seconds. In two minutes, the strip will display a positive or negative result and tell you if fentanyl was in the drugs you tested.

Test strips are part of a broader approach to reducing drug overdose deaths, called harm reduction. The mission is just what it sounds like: reducing the harm associated with using drugs through a variety of public health strategies. In simpler terms, the goal is to save lives and protect the health of both the people who use drugs and their communities.

Harm reduction helps us address the drug overdose crisis we are facing in an environment of respect, dignity, and compassion. All overdose deaths are preventable, and each death represents someone who is loved and missed by friends, neighbors, and family members.

We can give you free Narcan, fentanyl test strips, and other safer use equipment.

Our Syringe Services Program operates out of our South Park Street and East Washington offices, as well as several community locations. Find more information, including hours and locations on our website.

This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison - Public Health Madison & Dane County and a link back to the original post.