California offers free fentanyl test strips for ‘safe’ drug use, advises ‘never using alone’

In an effort to curb the incidence of fentanyl overdoses and to protect drug users in California, the state has rolled out free fentanyl test strips for a limited time. According to California Department of Public Health specialist Pike Long, the fentanyl test strips “are a useful addition” to the state’s harm-reduction strategies, such as “never using alone and always carrying naloxone.”The test strips are an expansion of the Department of Health Care Services’ (DHCS) existing project that distributes free naloxone, also known as Narcan, which is a life-saving drug that can reverse overdoses. The test strips will be distributed to eligible organizations who apply online.DHS WARNS MEXICAN-PRODUCED DRUGS LIKE FENTANYL LIKELY TO KILL MORE AMERICANS THAN ANY OTHER THREATCalifornia’s health department follows what’s known as a “harm reduction” model, which focuses on reducing the consequences of drug use through offering clean syringes, naloxone and other materials to “meet people where they’re at” and make drug use “safer.””Harm reduction programs help people who use drugs protect themselves from injury and infections and provide essential safety net services,” California’s health department website states. The state’s health and human resources secretary, Mark Ghaly, said that harm-reduction programs “are a huge part of how we better protect people, how we get them into treatment.””This work is time tested. Shame isn’t a solution; support and science-driven policy is,” he said.Schools, universities, law enforcement, harm-reduction organizations, county public health services, community centers, local city agencies, homeless organizations, rehab facilities and hospitals are all eligible to obtain the free test strips.”California is committed to combatting the opioid and fentanyl crisis,” DHCS Director Michelle Baass said in a statement on Thursday. “Fentanyl test strips are a powerful tool for effective opioid-related overdose prevention. We urge our community partners to apply for this additional tool to help us tackle this crisis.”NARCAN VENDING MACHINES ARE THE LATEST WEAPON AGAINST OPIOID OVERDOSESIllicit fentanyl, which is a synthetic opioid, is often sold in the form of pills and can be 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the CDC, fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are the most common drugs leading to overdose deaths, and more than 150 people die daily from overdoses connected to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Street fentanyl can also be mixed with other drugs, which can make it more deadly, even in small doses. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is often prescribed by doctors for patients in severe pain, such as for surgery or advanced forms of cancer.FENTANYL TEST STRIPS CAN DETECT DEADLY OPIOID HIDDEN IN RECREATIONAL DRUGSAccording to the state’s latest data, there were 6,473 fentanyl-related deaths in 2022 and more than 21,300 emergency room visits for any opioid-related incidents. There were also more than 13.6 million fentanyl prescriptions filled that year.  Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said it has distributed more than 3.9 million kits of naloxone, resulting in more than 247,000 reported opioid overdose reversals since the state unveiled its Naloxone Distribution Project in 2018.
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