The revised Milk Bill passed overwhelmingly on the last day of the General Assembly session. If the bill does not attract Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s veto, Georgia will join a growing list of states decriminalizing the use of fentanyl test strips as the drug scourge has spread across the country. country.
The governors of New Mexico and Wisconsin this year signed bills allowing test strips in those states, and the legislatures of Tennessee and Alabama recently passed similar legislation. In Pennsylvania, although state law bans test strips, the mayors of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have ordered bans on prosecuting those in possession. The state’s attorney general said he won’t charge people to have the test strips. Alaska state health officials, horrified by a spate of overdose deaths, have begun handing out free test strips. A vending machine in Ohio offers the fentanyl detection devices alongside naloxone, a drug to reverse overdoses.
Many public health and addiction experts, however, promote rapid test devices as a so-called “harm reduction” tactic to help prevent illicit drug overdose deaths that users may not know about. be not that they contain fentanyl.
“Fentanyl is so potent that it can stop your breathing at very low doses,” she said.
Test strips are inexpensive, costing around $1. An addict can take a small amount of the substance, add water, and briefly dip a strip into the solution. If a red band appears on the strip, fentanyl is present; two bands mean that no part of this drug was found.
One downside is that the test strips don’t measure the amount of fentanyl in the drug.
Test strips, Brown’s Marshall added, “will not be a silver bullet to solving the overdose crisis. But they can be an important tool in helping people stay safe.”
In Georgia, where the testing bill awaits governor’s approval, public health officials said fentanyl-related overdose deaths jumped after the onset of the covid-19 pandemic, doubling between the May 1, 2020 and April 30, 2021, over the same duration. in 2019 and 2020.
And fentanyl-related overdoses have recently increased in Savannah, Georgia, according to Dr. Jay Goldstein, medical director of Memorial Health’s emergency department. He said many overdose patients said they were surprised by the potency of the drug they had taken, but he fears giving them the strips will not stop its use.
“It’s sad to say, but some users want fentanyl in their drugs because it gives them a more intense high, even though the risk of crashing and burning is much worse,” he said.
Meanwhile, families in Georgia who have seen loved ones die of a fentanyl overdose are supporting the availability of test strips.
Doreen Barr of Fayette County in suburban Atlanta lost a son to a combined dose of heroin and fentanyl seven years ago. She started a nonprofit foundation in Ryan Barr’s name to educate people about addiction.
Barr said she believes the test strips can save lives.
“Why don’t we have the fentanyl strips? ” she says. “Cocaine or a fake pill could have fentanyl in it. One time could kill you. If they had a test strip, maybe they wouldn’t take it.”
KHN South Carolina correspondent Lauren Sausser contributed to this article.
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism on health issues. Along with policy analysis and polls, KHN is one of the three main operating programs of the KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed non-profit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.