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What Are Fentanyl Test Strips?

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Fentanyl test strips (FTS) were developed to be an inexpensive, fast, and easy way to identify fentanyl or the presence of fentanyl in other drugs. They are a harm reduction measure concerned loved ones, law enforcement, or drug users themselves can use to identify fentanyl and avoid a possible overdose. It is vital to be aware that FTS are not 100% accurate and sometimes produce false negatives and positives. Despite their life-saving potential, FTS are still technically illegal in many states, as they are considered drug paraphernalia. (1)

If you suspect you or someone else has ingested fentanyl, it is critical to seek medical attention immediately. Exposure to fentanyl, whether deliberate or unintentional, can rapidly result in a lethal overdose. In addition, routine use of fentanyl alone or combined with other drugs can lead to physical dependence, making it challenging to quit using without help. Guardian Recovery provides comprehensive medical and mental health care, personalized treatment programs, and therapeutic services for those with a desire to conquer addiction and forge a new life in recovery.

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Where Can Fentanyl Test Strips Be Found?

Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, FTS are considered drug paraphernalia and technically illegal in 42 states and the District of Columbia. Despite this, many states have authorized them for use, and there is currently a push to legalize them in other states. Furthermore, some governors and district attorneys refuse to charge or prosecute individuals for possessing FTS. Still, owing to their illegality, access to FTS is limited in many areas.

Some harm reduction organizations, such as drug use health clinics and syringe exchange programs, carry FTS to allow drug users to make more informed decisions about their drug use and prevent overdose. Additionally, some websites, such as AlcoPro.com, sell FTS and other testing supplies online. (2)

How Do You Test for Fentanyl?

FTS are small, thin paper strips that are usually blue and white. A chemical reaction will occur and register the presence of fentanyl on the test strip if it is detected. FTS can be used with liquid or powder samples. When testing for fentanyl, handle the drug(s) with extreme caution, as even a tiny amount of fentanyl can be deadly.

Fentanyl Test Strips Instructions:

  1. Mix the sample you wish to test in water until it is fully dissolved. Fentanyl is not always evenly distributed within a substance, so testing only one spot can result in a false negative.
  2. Place the testing end of the strip into the sample for 15 seconds.
  3. Remove the strip and place it on a flat surface for two minutes.
  4. If the FTS displays one red line, the sample is positive and contains fentanyl. If the FTS shows two red lines, the sample is negative and does not contain fentanyl.

Remember that FTS are not always accurate. If a strip returns a positive result, err on the side of caution, and assume it is not a false positive. If a strip returns a negative result, but you continue to suspect fentanyl could be present, test another sample—again, fentanyl is not always evenly mixed throughout. You can visit the City of New York’s official government website for more detailed instructions about FTS and how to use them. (3)

What Should You Do If You Have a Positive Result?

If your FTS is positive for fentanyl, here are some steps you can take to protect yourself and others:

  • Seek Medical Attention—Again, fentanyl is highly concentrated and can rapidly cause an overdose. If you recently ingested a drug that may contain fentanyl, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Notify Other Users—If you recently shared the substance with another person, notify them of the positive FTS result and encourage them to seek medical attention.
  • Contact Authorities—Notifying authorities of fentanyl-laced substances can prevent accidental overdoses.

Safely Dispose of the Drug—Do not use the drug again. Dispose of it safely and responsibly, such as through a drug take back program at a nearby pharmacy.

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Have Fentanyl Test Strips Proven Effective at Reducing Harm?

In theory, FTS can be an effective harm reduction tool because they allow potential victims to avoid fentanyl ingestion and overdose. Likewise, in states where they are legal, FTS have been effective in detecting fentanyl and enabling drug users to make better decisions. Regardless of whether or not a person decides to use recreational drugs, FTS can save lives.

Nonetheless, no drug testing method is 100% accurate, and FTS are not currently legal or accessible everywhere. (4) Moreover, because of the dangers fentanyl poses to society, the effectiveness of FTS may be inherently limited. Therefore, any successful harm reduction strategy will likely need to be part of a more robust support system and include education, widespread resource availability, and access to comprehensive rehab programs.

Alternative Ways to Lower Risks of a Fentanyl Overdose

The following are alternative ways to reduce your risk of fentanyl exposure, overdose, and death:

  • Educate Yourself—Learning about fentanyl, how it works, and the signs and symptoms of an overdose can equip you with the knowledge of what to do if someone ingests fentanyl.
  • Never Use Drugs by Yourself—Try to avoid using drugs alone. Having someone else there to help in an emergency can save your life.
  • Do Not Mix Drugs—Combining multiple drugs, especially with fentanyl, can amplify the depressant effects of the drugs involved, significantly increasing the risk of overdose.
  • Take Smaller Doses—Consuming smaller amounts of a substance can limit potential fentanyl exposure. Starting with a small amount and seeing the effects may help to determine how risky a drug is—but not always. As with illicit drug use in general, there is inherent risk involved.
  • Be Prepared—If you are using drugs, it’s best to keep naloxone ready to reverse an opioid overdose. (5)

Seek Help—If you are struggling with substance misuse, reach out to an addiction treatment center, healthcare provider, or local support group for help.

Drugs That May Be Laced With Fentanyl

Unfortunately, because fentanyl is cheap to produce, it is sometimes carelessly cut into other drugs to increase their potency. Fentanyl can be laced into any drug, and it is impossible to know whether or not any drug bought off the street is safe.

Drugs Commonly Laced With Fentanyl May Include:

  • Heroin.
  • Cocaine.
  • Methamphetamine (meth).
  • Amphetamine (Adderall).
  • MDMA (ecstasy, molly).
  • Other prescription opioids.
  • Synthetic Cannabinoids (K2, spice).

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If you’ve been using fentanyl or are being exposed to it through regular drug use, you are at high risk of overdose and other dangerous health complications. At Guardian Recovery, we provide evidence-based multi-faceted addiction treatment individualized to meet your personal needs and goals. Our services, such as medical detoxbehavioral therapy, and medication-assisted treatment, are facilitated by licensed, highly-skilled medical and mental health staff who specialize in the field of drug and alcohol addiction.

We offer a free, no-obligation health insurance benefits check and work with most major and regional insurance providers to ensure our treatment services are accessible to those who direly need them. Contact us today to speak to an experienced Treatment Advisor and learn more about our streamlined admissions process and full continuum of care.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

(1)https://www.cato.org/blog/fentanyl-test-strips-save-lives-yet-most-states-ban-them-drug-paraphernalia (2)https://alcopro.com/product/fentanyl-drug-residue-surface-test-kit/ (3)https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/basas/fentanyl-test-strips-brochure.pdf (4)https://www.cdc.gov/stopoverdose/fentanyl/fentanyl-test-strips.html (5)https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/naloxone

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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