As drug overdose deaths rise, here’s how to test for fentanyl

At the height of the pandemic in 2020, USC neuroscience student Isabella Gianatiempo said one of her peers died after unwittingly taking a lethal mixture of drugs. The death sparked a conversation about the increased number of drug overdoses – three of which were linked to drugs containing fentanyl – on the school campus.

Giantiempo, Madeline Hilliard and three other students wanted to do something about it, and they believed the root of the problem was a lack of drug education. They created TACO, which was short for Team Awareness Combating Overdose, a non-profit organization whose goal is to prevent accidental overdose deaths through research-based education and accessible drug reduction supplies. mischief on college campuses.

The problem is not limited to colleges. According to the most recent data from the California Department of Public Health, LA County experienced 1,300 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2020.

And it’s getting worse and worse. In the United States, the number of overdose deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids increased by 22% in 2021.

This month, three men were found dead in downtown Los Angeles after ingesting fentanyl; in April, a 28-year-old man died and two others were hospitalized in South Los Angeles after ingesting drugs containing fentanyl.

Fentanyl has a few legal applications; for example, it may be prescribed to patients with chronic pain after surgery. But the illicit use of fentanyl can be deadly.

And often people will take the drug without realizing it. Fentanyl is mixed with other drugs (including heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine) to increase potency, and is sometimes sold in powders or pills designed to look like legitimate prescription drugs, a said the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

Ed Ternan, co-founder of Song For Charlie, said counterfeit pills are a huge problem that most people don’t know exists.

“These fake pills are everywhere, to the point that if you get a pill online or anywhere that isn’t directly from your doctor, you can pretty much assume it’s a counterfeit. What if it’s a counterfeit, it’s made with fentanyl,” Ternan said.

Ternan and his wife, Mary, created Song for Charlie after their youngest son died in May 2020. He took a black market pill he thought was the prescription painkiller Percocet, but was actually made of fentanyl.

Song for Charlie’s mission is to warn young people about the prevalence and dangers of fake pills.

The question even reached the floor of the Senate, while the senses. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) proposed designating May 10 as National Fentanyl Awareness Day, a resolution that was unanimously approved.

Raising awareness is one way to prevent overdoses. Other tools include fentanyl test strips, as well as resources to reduce or eliminate the use of unhealthy substances. Here are some tips for finding and using test kits.

How do you use fentanyl test strips?

If you have medication that was not legitimately prescribed and provided by medical professionals, use a test strip before ingestion to check if it contains fentanyl.

According to TACO, different types of drugs require different preparations for better test accuracy:

  • Powders: Shake and mix thoroughly in the bag the medicine came in. All pieces must be broken.
  • Crystals: Grind into a fine powder and mix well.
  • Pills: Grind into a fine powder and mix well.

Next, mix about a tablespoon of water and a small amount of medicine (TACO suggests using a sample the size of a strawberry seed). Put the test strip into the mixture, holding it by the solid blue end and inserting it no further than the thick blue “MAX” line. The number of seconds it takes to complete the test varies, so follow the instructions on the kit or the instructions given to you by the organization providing the strip.

A single colored line is a positive result, which means fentanyl is present and you should not take the drug. A two-color line is a negative result.

Ternan argued that fentanyl test strips should be legal and readily available across the United States because they can be effective harm reduction tools when used correctly. But addicts and experimenters must carry out the tests themselves, he said.

“Young people who aren’t as savvy may be lulled into a false sense of security just knowing that there is such a thing as fentanyl test strips on the market because it allows dealers to tell, and they ‘ did, ‘I tested my pills. You don’t have to worry,’ he said. ‘That’s not true.’

He reiterated that if a drug is presented to you in pill form, it has not been tested for fentanyl because “you have to destroy the pill to test it properly.”

Where to get test strips

Los Angeles LGBTQ Center
The center provides free fentanyl test strips to those who request them. It also provides free or low-cost, comprehensive, non-judgmental addiction recovery services. For more information, email or call (323) 993-7448.

APLA Health
APLA Health has several locations in Los Angeles County that offer test strips, including Koreatown, two locations in Baldwin Hills, Mid-Wilshire, downtown Los Angeles and Long Beach. It also offers treatment that can help reduce or eliminate behaviors that sustain addiction and substance use. For more information, call (323) 215-1725 or visit

The nonprofit organization offers pickup and delivery options for 1-cent test strips at college campuses, including UC Berkley, USC, UCLA and UC Santa Barbara. TACO partners with delivery apps Duffl and Handle. Or you can take a test at a location listed on the TACO website.

End of overdose
The organization provides training and tools to treat people who overdose and prevent death through education, medical intervention and public awareness. It sells five-pack fentanyl test strips online for $7.99. Each package comes with a QR sticker which, when scanned, indicates how to use the test strips.

Los Angeles Times

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
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