What is fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a very strong opioid and in the past fentanyl test kits have been expensive. It and some of its derivatives (acetylfentanyl, acrylfentanyl, carfentanil) have been the source of many overdoses. They are far stronger than heroin by weight and far cheaper to buy in bulk, so heroin dealers have been using it as an additive to increase the potency of the product they sell. As of 2016, fentanyl related deaths have risen over 560% in the past three years. While it has legitimate applications in medicine, just like morphine, it is 50-100 times stronger by weight and inexpensive to buy bulk powder on the black market. It’s impossible to evenly disperse it as an additive throughout a given batch of heroin, so one bag may be fine while the next one from the same batch is an instant ticket to an overdose. It is also highly resistant to Narcan (Naloxone), often requiring multiple administrations. I’ve heard stories from police officers having to use up to seven units of Narcan to reverse a fentanyl overdose. Fentanyl can also be absorbed through the skin, making it extremely dangerous for anybody to work with, much less emergency responders and the users they’re trying to save.
How is it causing a problem?
When someone buys heroin, unlike with pharmaceuticals, its purity and dosage are uncertain. They do not know in advance if whether they are touching heroin laced with a fentanyl analogue or not. This creates an unnecessarily high level of risk, especially if the user is also taking sedatives like benzodiazepines or muscle relaxers along with it.
What can be done about it?
DanceSafe has prepared a fentanyl testing kit. It’s an immunoassay kit that was originally designed for urine testing, but they found it can be used to test drugs as well. If you or someone you know is using injection drugs, I highly encourage them to order some of these testing kits and test what you are about to use for fentanyl. The kits cost around 2$ a piece, so are easily affordable, and have free shipping.