A fentanyl check in progress. One red line on top is a positive result for the presence of fentanyl or one of its analogs. Two red lines is a negative result. (Vancouver Coastal Health photo)

Take-home drug testing kits latest pilot to help curb B.C.’s overdose crisis

Researchers look to see if fentanyl testing could be a useful tool for those who use drugs alone

As British Columbians using drugs alone continues to be one of the biggest cruxes in the ongoing overdose crisis, health officials are hoping take-home drug testing kits will help save lives.

READ MORE: Carfentanil, an opioid more toxic than fentanyl, linked to more deaths in B.C.

Both the Vancouver Coastal Health and Interior Health authorities announced a partnership with the BC Centre for Disease Control this week, which will include piloting take-home kits for users to check their drugs and safely use alone.

Since 2016, 80 per cent of overdose deaths have occurred indoors, according to the BC Coroners Service.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy said in a statement that using alone increases risk of death “amidst a toxic, unpredictable and illegal drug supply that is taking three to four lives every single day.”

The kits will be available at overdose prevention sites and safe consumption sites in Vancouver, Kamloops, Cranbrook, Merritt, Nelson, Vernon, Kelowna and Penticton.

Inside each kit includes five fentanyl test strips with instructions on how to use them. These tests were implemented at all overdose prevention sites in B.C. in late 2017 to combat the illicit drug behind 87 per cent of the 1510 fatal overdoses last year. Since then, more than 500 people monthly test their drugs at the various sites across Vancouver.

READ MORE: B.C. launches new drug-checking program, expands fentanyl testing

BC Coroners Service data available on May 15, 2019.

Researchers will compare the impact of the take-home tests versus drug checking services already offered at Vancouver-based sites, including how many strips come back positive for fentanyl.

“Using the test strips will allow people to identify if there is fentanyl in their drugs so they can make informed decisions about how to reduce their risk of overdose,” said Dr. Jane Buxton, Medical Lead for Harm Reduction at the centre.

“Although the test strips do not detect all fentanyl analogues, they are another tool that we can use to engage with people who use substances and discuss with them how they can reduce harms.

“After testing their drugs, people may choose to use less, to use with a friend, or not use the drug at all. And, of course, key to staying safe even with access to test strips is to be trained to respond to an overdose and have a naloxone kit with you at all times.”

ALSO READ: Canada first in the world to approve injectable hydromorphone to treat opioid addiction

Buxton added that research so far has shown that when drugs come back positive for fentanyl, drug users are more likely to reduce their dose.

From January to the end of March this year there have been 268 deaths, with a record-number caused by carfentanil – an illicit opioid used for pain management on elephants and 100 times more deadly than fentanyl.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19: SD67 approves budget reductions

Staff positions will be cut to balance budget

COVID-19: Pre-recorded graduation events planned for students in School District 67

Graduates from Penticton Secondary have created petition to urge postponement of grad ceremonies

COVID-19: SD67 plans restart program for Penticton, Summerland students

District following provincial guidelines as students return to classrooms on June 1

Petition seeks to clean up Okanagan forests ‘carpeted’ with shotgun shells

Penticton man says making shot-gun shells refundable would create cleaner forests

Eco-friendly bus service seeks to add Kelowna to Osoyoos route

Bus would stop in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Penticton, Kaledan, Oliver, Osoyoos

Video: Okanagan mayors encourage water conservation this summer

Water conservation this summer could be more important than ever, experts say

Enderby’s drive-in not safe from top doc’s 50-car limit

Starlight Drive-In opened with reduced capacity, COVID-19 safety measures in place

Parking lot patios a go in Vernon

Council votes in favour of allowing businesses to expand commercial space into on-street parking spots

Shuswap cabin owner disputes request to stay home in Alberta

Alberta resident redrafts response to CSRD request to stay home

Kelowna’s main drag will be closed to vehicles this summer

Kelowna’s Bernard Avenue will be a pedestrian-only roadway from June 29 through the Labour Day long weekend

Vernon gym knocked out by COVID-19

9Round Fitness in Vernon Square Mall owners announce permanent closure of facility

Snapshot: Distanced dancing in Salmon Arm

Friends use picnic shelter at Blackburn Park for safe practice

Kelowna’s Homebase Baseball Tournament cancelled

A live auction will still take place to raise funds for Joeanna’s House

Kelowna General Hospital Foundation launches fundraising initiative to support local health care

The initiative also highlights workers at Kelowna General Hospital

Most Read