Published On: Friday, 29 December 2017

Fentanyl Test Strips Added to Overdose Prevention Arsenal

Fentanyl Test Strips Added to Overdose Prevention Arsenal

VANCOUVER ISLAND – Fentanyl test strips were added to Island Health’s supervised consumption and overdose prevention sites in late December, allowing on-the-spot testing of drugs before they are consumed.

Sites in Victoria, the city with the third-highest number of overdose deaths in BC this year, were the first locations on Vancouver Island to receive the strips.

Overdose prevention sites in Duncan, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Courtenay and Campbell River were to receive strips by the end of December. The strips are free to people checking drugs while at an overdose prevention or supervised consumption site.

“It isn’t a perfect method for detecting contaminants and a risk still exists regardless of the results, which is why we are making them available at supervised consumption and overdose prevention sites,” said Dr. Murray Fyfe, Medical Health Officer, Island Health.

“We hope that drug checking will become part of a routine for people using drugs at these sites to do so more safely – combining drug checking with proven existing harm reduction practices should help save lives.”

Recommended harm reduction practices include using with a friend who is not also using at the same time, starting with a lower dose, and having a naloxone kit available.

In addition to supervised consumption and overdose prevention services, other Island Health supports for people who use illicit drugs include opioid agonist treatments such as methadone and suboxone along with peer support, mental health services, and sobering, stabilizing, treatment and recovery beds.

During the winter holidays in 2016, there was a marked increase in overdose deaths in BC. Since that time, overdose rates have continued to increase at an alarming rate. Between January and October 2017, 1,208 BC residents died of drug overdoses in BC, of whom 198 came from Island communities.