Drug overdoses have been rising steadily in the United States for the past decade, and it’s most the result of opiate use. National Public Radio reported earlier this week that one organization is using instant drug test kits to try to reduce the rate of overdose and help opiate users to stay as safe as possible while they are active in addiction.
Experimental Harm Reduction Using Instant Drug Test Kits
One of the major causes of the high numbers of fatal overdoses in the United States is widespread opiate use. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over sixty percent of the half million fatal drug overdoses that have occurred nationwide since 2000 involved the use of opiates (CDC.) Opiate deaths have increased by 200% since 2000, according to the CDC. Of course, this statistic includes overdoses caused by prescription painkillers, but the instant drug test kits are being used to specifically target overdoses caused by heroin.
Using heroin has become even more dangerous recently because of the spread of fentanyl and fentanyl analogs into the nation’s heroin supply. These opiate chemicals cause the same effects as heroin and other opiates, but they tend to be much stronger and have a higher potential to cause an overdose.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, drugs like fentanyl and carfentanil are often produced in overseas labs and sold online to dealers in the United States. Then, they are used to “cut” the heroin supply to make it stretch. This way, dealers can sell more of their product and make more profit. However, these drugs tend to be far more powerful than heroin itself and can cause fatal overdoses in very small amounts. For example, fentanyl can be up to fifty times more powerful than heroin (CNN.) When a user buys heroin that actually contains fentanyl, they are at a much greater risk of death.
To help drug users avoid fatally overdosing on heroin, the organization St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction, located in the Bronx, is passing out instant drug test kits to users (NPR.) The instant drug test kits test substances for the presence of fentanyl. By handing out these tools to users, the group hopes that they can help prevent fatal overdoses by encouraging users to avoid drugs mixed with fentanyl or to, at the very least, exercise extreme caution when using fentanyl-tainted heroin.
Harm reduction is the philosophy that reducing the risks associated with dangerous or illegal behavior can help protect vulnerable populations. Advocates believe that if people are going to engage in these activities either way (such as inject heroin), that it is worthwhile to try to mitigate the risks and keep them alive. In fact, it’s only by keeping users alive that we have any hope of getting them comprehensive treatment, advocates argue. In addition to instant drug test kits, other harm reduction measures include:
- Needle exchanges
- Safe injection sites
- Narcan accessibility programs and training
The use of instant drug test kits may protect users who don’t know exactly what they are buying when they purchase heroin and prevent fatal overdoses on these drugs.
The Truth About Heroin
While instant drug test kits may protect some users, the truth is that we can never really know what is in illegally purchased drugs. For example, the instant drug test kits distributed by St. Ann’s test for fentanyl but they don’t test for carfentanil. That means that even if a batch tests negative for fentanyl, it can still contain other deadly chemicals.
Unfortunately, even with the use of instant drug test kits, some addicts will still choose to use heroin that contains fentanyl because the power of addiction is so strong. That brings up another point- even if the drugs only contain heroin, they can still be incredibly deadly. Sadly, for people trapped in the disease of addiction, the fear of consequences- even death- are sometimes not enough to prevent them from using.
Instant drug test kits may save some lives, and that is cause for celebration. However, the truth is that heroin, fentanyl, and other addictive drugs do kill users every single day. The only surefire way to avoid this consequence is to stop using these drugs altogether, but that can be nearly impossible without help. For people who do suffer from addiction and who want to stop, All About Recovery offers comprehensive addiction treatment programs. For more information, call today at 888-712-8480.