Take-home fentanyl test strips ‘potentially life-saving,’ B.C. study says

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Researchers have compiled data from a study conducted in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood as well as several smaller urban and rural communities regarding take-home fentanyl test strips.

The study demonstrated the utility of distributing fentanyl test strips for take-home use.

“Among 1,768 opioid drug samples tested, the positivity rates of the take-home fentanyl test strips were similar to those obtained by trained staff at harm reduction sites (90 per cent positivity compared to 89.1 per cent respectively),” Vancouver Coast Health staff said.

In the study, 95 per cent of participants said they would use the take-home test strips again, with almost one in three reporting safer substance use behaviour.

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“For the past three years, more than 80 per cent of overdose deaths in B.C. occurred where people live,” said Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, Vancouver Coastal Health’s deputy chief medical health officer.

“Take-home drug checking provides people with information they can use to reduce their risk of illicit drug poisoning in the very location where the risk is highest.”

In addition to supporting ongoing surveillance of the poisoned drug supply by public health, when fentanyl is detected through testing, research found it motivated people to take action to reduce their risk of overdose, according to Vancouver Coastal Health.

“The rapidly changing and unpredictable illicit drug supply continues to drive both fatal and non-fatal overdoses. These findings demonstrate that in the absence of a regulated drug supply, strategies that provide people with information about the substances they’re consuming are paramount to keeping them safe,” said Dr. Sukhpreet Klaire, the B.C. Centre on Substance Use’s associate director and lead author of the study.

“Take-home fentanyl strips can provide potentially life-saving information and should be made widely accessible.”

Vancouver Coastal Health has made fentanyl drug testing strips available for take-home use at the following locations:

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  • Him Health Centre on Davie Street
  • Molson Overdose Prevention Site
  • Overdose Prevention Society
  • Robert and Lily Lee Community Health Centre
  • Insite – Supervised Prevention Site
  • St. Paul’s Overdose Prevention Site
  • Three Bridges Community Health
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