Among more than 72,000 deaths in the U.S. last year, fentanyl—a highly potent prescription opioid often used to lace other heroin or cocaine, but hard for drug users to detect—factored into many of cases.
"We found that fentanyl test strips are an effective harm-reduction tool to prevent overdose," Marshall said. "Harm reduction is important because everyone deserves to be able to take care of themselves and make informed decisions about their health, whether they use drugs or not. These tests strips could be a life-saving intervention for many young adults who use drugs."
The findings were published on Thursday, Oct. 18, in the International Journal of Drug Policy.
The fentanyl test strips work like an over-the-counter pregnancy test, said Max Krieger, a research assistant in Marshall's lab and the lead author of the study. Each single-use strip is dipped into water containing a bit of drug residue, and after a minute, either one or two red lines appear—one line means the liquid contains fentanyl, and two lines means the test did not detect the drug.