Harm Reduction Center in NY Hands out Test Strips
St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction, a needle exchange center in the Bronx, began handing out urine test strips to heroin users so they can determine whether their drugs are laced with fentanyl.
Van Asher, a staff member at St. Ann’s, started giving heroin users the strips in a desperate attempt to “curb the overdose rates among his clientele” (De la Cretaz, 2017). While the strips are typically used to test urine, Asher told users that if they put some of the drug they are using on to the strip, it will tell them what’s in it. According to addiction news website The Fix, “Asher hopes that if users are informed about what they’re putting into their bodies, they can make decisions about if and how to use the drugs” (De la Cretaz, 2017).
The actions taken at St. Ann’s comes at a time when fentanyl usage has caused a spike in overdose deaths and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings about the drug (De la Cretaz, 2017). A recent study on fentanyl overdoses in Massachusetts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that “persons using heroin often did not know whether fentanyl was mixed into the heroin they purchased” (Somerville et al., 2017).
Over the course of three months in Massachusetts in 2016, “74 percent of opioid overdose deaths . . . were caused by fentanyl, which is up to one hundred times stronger than morphine and is the strongest opioid available to doctors” (De la Cretaz, 2017).
De la Cretaz, B. (2017). Bronx harm reduction center gives out fentanyl test strips to heroin users. Retrieved from https://www.thefix.com/bronx-harm-reduction-center-gives-out-fentanyl-test-strips-heroin-users
Somerville, N. J., O’Donnell, J., Gladden, R. M., Zibbell, J. E., Green, T. C., Younkin, M., . . . Walley, A. Y. (2017). Characteristics of fentanyl overdose – Massachusetts, 2014–2016. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 66(14), 382–6.