Why States Are Decriminalizing Fentanyl Test Strips

Test strips that serve to alert to the presence of fentanyl are quickly being decriminalized in many areas of the United States. Georgia has recently joined states like Tennessee, Wisconsin, Alabama, and New Mexico in legalizing these potentially life-saving strips, per CNN

According to California's Department of Public Health (CDPH), the test strips are meant to be utilized by persons using drugs such as methamphetamines or opioids in order to test for the presence of fentanyl. CDPH notes that you only need a very small sample of the drug to get an accurate reading and it only takes about 5 minutes to yield a result.

While fentanyl test strips remain illegal in many states due to being categorized as drug paraphernalia, advocates and experts are hopeful that this will change, per CNN. Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health Dr. Nora Volkow explained to CNN, "We hope all the states would come to realize the dangers of contamination are so high and that fentanyl test strips empower a person taking drugs to know whether they have fentanyl."

Preventing overdoses with the legalization of fentanyl test strips

The reason why the legalization of fentanyl test strips is so prudent is that there has been an alarming rise in overdose deaths involving the drug in the past few years. According to CNN, two out of every three fatal overdoses in the United States in 2021 were because of fentanyl-like substances and estimates suggest more than 150 people die each day from them. Often found in heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, and pills, fentanyl is approximately 100 times stronger than morphine and can easily kill you with just the smallest amount, per CNN. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), someone who is experiencing a fentanyl overdose may stop breathing, make choking noises, have clammy skin, and may pass out. Originally intended for medical use to help with severe pain, fentanyl became popular in the illegal drug market thanks to the fact that it makes drugs cheaper and more potent, per CDC.

Although the legalization of fentanyl test strips may not be enough to resolve the opioid epidemic within the United States, it's an important step toward reducing the fatal consequences that accidental overdoses can cause.