New Tool For Detecting Fentanyl To Be Offered By DanceSafe

By Kelly Burch 07/19/17

With fentanyl becoming increasingly common, the nonprofit organization decided that testing for the drug is an essential safety step.

a hand holding a urinalysis testing strip

The organization DanceSafe, which is known for its drug-checking services, will now offer fentanyl test strips that allow people to check their drugs for the deadly synthetic opioid. 

“When an individual opiate user doesn't know what substance they are consuming, or the strength of their bag, the risks of opiate consumption increase considerably,” Mitchell Gomez, executive director of DanceSafe told The Fix. “While no drug use is safe, by implementing harm reduction strategies like needle exchanges, free Narcan, supervised injection facilities and testing tools, drug use can be made safer.”

DanceSafe worked with the University of California, San Francisco to test five different types of fentanyl detection strips. Although none of the strips picked up every instance of fentanyl, a brand manufactured by the Canadian company BTNX detected most of them including carfentanil, an extremely potent synthetic opioid hundreds of times stronger than fentanyl. These strips will now be offered by DanceSafe online and at events. 

Gomez says that with fentanyl becoming increasingly common around the country, this is an essential safety measure. 

“We have now started to see fentanyl show up in non-opiate drugs like cocaine, and since the majority of cocaine users have no opiate tolerance at all, the risks of their accidental consumption of fentanyl are incredibly serious,” he said. 

Gomez says that by using the test strips, people will at least be aware about what they’re putting into their bodies. 

“When an opiate user knows that their bag contains fentanyl, they can make better decisions about their choice to consume,” he said. “While ideally this would lead to a cessation of use, at a bare minimum the user now knows to take a 'test shot' to determine the strength of their mixture, to not use alone, or to have Narcan on hand.”

DanceSafe has not handed out the fentanyl strips at an event yet, but Gomez anticipates that they will be well-received. 

“Although drug use is an inherently risky activity, the vast majority of users really do want to be as safe as possible, and find that knowing what substance they are consuming is an important part of that,” he said. 

Gomez acknowledges that abstaining from drug use is the only way to completely eliminate the risk of overdosing, but says that's unrealistic. 

“Since Richard Nixon declared a 'war on drugs' in 1971, the United States has spent over a trillion dollars on drug prohibition,” Gomez said. “After 40 years of 'just say no,' and enough money to re-create the Apollo moon program more than 30 times over, we are now in the midst of the worst opiate epidemic in our history. Personally, I think it's time for 'just say know.’"

The strips are available for purchase on DanceSafe’s website. They cost $2.09 each, or can be purchased at 10 strips for $19.99 or 100 for $149. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.