Fentanyl Test Strips: Can They Prevent Overdose?

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on

Fentanyl is an extremely dangerous illicit drug that is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance. This drug is a synthetic opioid and can be detected by FTS strips when they are dunked in a drug supply solution.

Fentanyl Test Strips

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.

Fentanyl is also commonly sold on the street as an alternative to heroin and methamphetamine,  and has been linked to a number of overdose deaths.

Fentanyl test strips are simple strips of paper that can be dipped into a small sample of liquid and will change color to indicate the presence of the drug.

These strips are designed to help people who use drugs test their supply for the presence of fentanyl, and avoid using the drug if it is present.

While fentanyl test strips are not foolproof, they offer a simple way for people to test their drugs and reduce their risk of overdose and fentanyl addiction.

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What Is A Fentanyl Test Strip?

A fentanyl test strip is a tool used to test for the presence of the potent synthetic opioid, fentanyl. The strips work by detecting the presence of the fentanyl molecule in a sample of fluid.

They were first invented as a reaction to increased overdose rates, and have been an important tool for harm reduction.

Why Are Fentanyl Test Strips Necessary?

Fentanyl test strips are an important public health measure to help prevent overdose by providing people a way to test their drugs before using them.

If fentanyl is present, the strip will change color, giving people a chance to make an informed decision about whether or not they should use the substance.

Additional Harm Reduction Programs

Fentanyl test strips are an additional harm reduction program that can be used in conjunction with other strategies such as syringe service programs and safe injection sites.

Other overdose prevention strategies include federal funding for access to opioid overdose reversal treatments, such as naloxone, and the development of educational programs.

Where To Get Fentanyl Test Strips

You can purchase fentanyl test strips online or at some drug stores. They are relatively inexpensive, costing about $1 per strip.

They can also be obtained from healthcare providers at hospitals and emergency clinics. They are also often carried by law enforcement in the event that drug testing is needed.

How To Use A Fentanyl Test Strip

Fentanyl test strips (FTS) are extremely easy to use and almost always produce accurate test results.

To use FTS, take the paper strip and dip it into blood, saliva, urine, or a solution composed of water and the drug in question.

A positive test result, meaning that fentanyl is present, appears as a solid red line.

These tests have a 96-100% accuracy rate, and while the margin of error is only four percent, negative results can still appear.

Negative results appear as two solid red lines, meaning that the test strip did not detect any of the drug medium or solution.

Other Ways To Recognize The Presence Of Fentanyl

There are a number of ways to recognize the presence of fentanyl.

Fentanyl is often sold as a powder and can be mixed with or substituted for other powders, such as heroin or MDMA, to create analogues. These can be used for snorting or intravenous injection.

It is also sometimes made into pills that look like other prescription medications. Counterfeit pills are called a ‘fentanyl analog.’

If you suspect someone of having a fentanyl substance use disorder (SUD), look for powdery white substances, pills that resemble prescription medications, and other drug paraphernalia.

Signs of fentanyl drug use include small pupils, excessive sweat, difficulty speaking, extreme drowsiness, and more.

Knowing The Symptoms Of A Fentanyl Overdose

Fentanyl is so potent that even a small amount can be deadly. An overdose of fentanyl can cause shallow breathing, dizziness, confusion, nausea, vomiting, and unconsciousness.

If not treated immediately, an overdose can lead to death.

Symptoms of a potential fentanyl overdose include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • unconsciousness
  • blue lips or fingernails
  • cold and clammy skin
  • muscle weakness
  • inability to speak coherently
  • small pupils

Treating A Fentanyl Overdose

There are a few different ways to treat a fentanyl overdose. The first is to administer naloxone, which is a medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Naloxone, also called narcan, is available as an injection or a nasal spray.

If naloxone is not available, another option is to give the person a shot of epinephrine, which can also help to reverse the effects of an opioid-based drug overdose.

Getting Help For A Fentanyl Addiction

Fortunately, there are a number of effective methods to treat fentanyl addiction.

Common approaches to fentanyl addiction treatment include:

  • inpatient and outpatient programs
  • individual and group therapy
  • evidence-based treatment
  • long-term or short-term residential rehab programs
  • support groups for stimulant or opioid addiction
  • intermediate drug checking and monitoring

Find Substance Use Treatment Today

If you or a loved one you know is seeking treatment for fentanyl addiction, give our free helpline a call today.

Our team can help you find a rehab facility near you, or provide a referral for medical advice.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on
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