05 Oct Fentanyl Strips Can Prevent Opioid Overdoses
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jon Zibbell, PhD,
Senior public health scientist
Behavioral Health Research Division
Research Triangle Park, NC,
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: For the first time in 2016, U.S. overdose deaths involving illicitly-manufactured fentanyl surpassed deaths from heroin and prescription deaths.
Fentanyl is an extremely potent synthetic opioid, and an illicitly-manufactured form of the drug is regularly being mixed with heroin and often sold to unwitting consumers. Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and its illicitly-manufactured version is extremely difficult to discern when mixed with heroin. Harm reduction organizations have started to distribute FTS and people consuming street-purchased opioids are using them to test drugs for fentanyl. Our objective was to assess whether this point-of-use form of drug checking was influencing people’s drug use behavior. The study was self-funded by the research institute RTI International.
Our findings show that consumers who tested street opioids with fentanyl test strips were five times more likely to engage in safer drug use behavior when the test comes back positive. The study was conducted among a group of 125 people who inject drugs in Greensboro, North Carolina.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: This is the first study of its kind to evaluate behavioral outcomes associated with the use of fentanyl test strips.
Our findings suggest that people who inject drugs can and will change their behavior when having information about the increased risks involved. It also shows that fentanyl test strips can be a primary overdose prevention tool to be used before a person consumes drugs, adding to the arsenal of secondary overdose prevention efforts currently in use (naloxone, EMS, acute hospitalization).
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: It will be helpful to study if our findings replicate among different groups in different regions of the country. The next step for us is too see if safer drug use behaviors associated with FTS use can actually facilitate reductions in overdose, something that was beyond the scope of our study.
Fentanyl test strips as an opioid overdose prevention strategy: Findings from a syringe services program in the Southeastern United States
Peiper, Nicholas C. et al.
International Journal of Drug Policy , Volume 0 , Issue 0 ,
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