Public health officials in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, are encouraging people to pick up free test strips to test their recreational drugs for the presence of fentanyl. The easy-to-use test strips are available at healthcare centers throughout the county.
Fentanyl is a deadly opioid drug that is 100 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl is sometimes added to less potent street drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin or even marijuana, to make these drugs more addictive. Dealers add in fentanyl and hope that their particular mix will create a better high and be more desired by the people buying their drugs. Because fentanyl is so potent, mixing it with other drugs can make smaller amounts of the mixture more potent, increasing the risk of overdose.
Cuyahoga County health officials began encouraging people to pick up the free test strips after noticing a wave of deaths related to cocaine being mixed with fentanyl. Eighteen people died within eight days because of the cocaine and fentanyl mixture. It is believed that more of the mixture may still be in circulation.
The fentanyl test strips are free, with the program being funded by the county through a $15,000 grant. These test strips are distributed by local healthcare centers, allowing people who are concerned about the quality of their drugs to have them tested without having to contact law enforcement or an agency connected with law enforcement. The process of obtaining these strips is designed to ensure people’s privacy and to help them stay safe without fear of legal consequences.
“I’m deeply concerned about the number of overdose fatalities we’ve seen within the past week. Additionally, we are seeing a high percentage of African American victims — 50 percent,” Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Gilson said in a press release. “While we are still gathering information, early indications are that many of the fatalities are a result of fentanyl/crack cocaine. We are coordinating efforts with other major metropolitan areas within Ohio to see if they are experiencing the same.”
While this program currently distributes these test strips through local healthcare facilities, plans are underway to begin placing them in public locations such as bus stations, public libraries, recreation centers and bar bathrooms. So far, details of this plan have not been announced. Officials in Cuyahoga County hope that by implementing a free fentanyl test strip distribution program, overdose deaths related to fentanyl-laced drugs can be avoided. While this program is primarily in Cuyahoga County, public health officials throughout the state are implementing similar public health safety initiatives.
Weisblat, Evey. “Cuyahoga County Healthcare Centers Offering 15,000 Free Test Strips to Detect Deadly Fentanyl Combinations.” Cleveland Scene, May 31, 2019. Accessed June 21, 2019.
Cuyahoga County Office of the Executive. “Medical Examiner: 8 Overdose Deaths Over Memorial Day Weekend.” May 28, 2019. Accessed June 21, 2019.
MacDonald, Evan. “Public health officials urging use of free fentanyl test strips after another wave of fatal overdoses in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County.” Cleveland.com, May 29, 2019. Accessed June 21, 2019.
Wedell, Katie. “Program examines if fentanyl test strips reduce overdoses, save lives.” Dayton Daily News, December 21, 2018. Accessed June 21, 2019.