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Fentanyl testing strips being used to help prevent fatal overdoses

SLO County Behavioral Health’s Opioid Safety Coalition is working to push for prevention strategies such as the use of fentanyl test strips.
Posted at 6:42 PM, Apr 17, 2023

Fentanyl is the leading cause of overdose-related deaths in San Luis Obispo County.

According to SLO County Behavioral Health, in 2021 there were 74 fentanyl overdose deaths, a jump from 34 in 2020.

Concerns over fentanyl poisoning are growing as the number of overdoses continues to increase.

“Any drug that somebody could, you know, gain access to kind of in an illicit market, whether it's heroin or counterfeit pills or, you know, methamphetamine or cocaine, any type of drug we're seeing, fentanyl is getting cut into it,” explained Jenn Rhoads, Coordinator of the SLO County Opioid Safety Coalition. “The person that's using that substance may or may not even know that they're also consuming fentanyl.”

As of March 30, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s officials told KSBY they were investigating approximately 40 drug-related deaths so far this year, and at least two were confirmed to be fentanyl-related. Results were not yet back for the other 38.

SLO County Behavioral Health’s Opioid Safety Coalition is working to push for prevention strategies such as the use of fentanyl testing strips.

“We, of course, advise folks to assume that if you were, if you've obtained any type of substance that hasn't come directly to you from, you know, a pharmacist or, you know, the local drug store, that it's likely to have fentanyl in it and to try and choose to not use it,” Rhoads said.

How does the test work? A user is supposed to crush the drugs into a powder, add the drugs with one to two tablespoons of water into a cup, and place the strip inside the cup for 15 seconds. Results should be available within two minutes.

The county warns that results are not 100% accurate but can increase safety.

“It also gives them the opportunity to maybe change how they're going to use it,” Rhoads added. “Maybe they can employ other harm-reduction techniques if they're planning to go ahead and continue to use — ensuring that they have Narcan available, ensuring that somebody is with them, maybe using a smaller amount than they would normally plan to use. ”

If you or someone you know is interested in using these testing strips, you can reach out to the SLO Opioid Safety Coalition, Cal Poly’s Mustangs for Recovery, or SLO Bangers Syringe Exchange.

To learn more about the SLO Opioid Safety Coalition, click here.

If you want to get in touch with SLO Bangers Syringe Exchange, you can call them at (805) 458-0123.