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Sunday, March 05, 2017

Detecting : Avoiding Fentanyl

"We're hoping to give community members a free and simple way to find out whether or not they've been exposed to fentanyl through recent substance use and we're also hoping, if we can, to collect a bit of data on what those results might be."
"We really need to start talking about pre-use interventions."
"Naloxone is great but it's after the fact. The issue isn't just fentanyl, it's that people don't know the content and strength of the drugs that they're consuming."
"That's where the analysis is necessary. We're seeing the public health benefit from other jurisdictions."
"[If people who use the strips are] angry, scared, confused [about the results] talk to us first! We strongly encourage people not to use these test results to accuse or threaten someone you may have gotten the drugs from. Your safety is important!"
Caleb Chepesiuk, member, AIDS Committee of Ottawa 
The fentanyl test will look like the one shown here and will reveal a coloured line if the drugs are positive for fentanyl.
The fentanyl test will look like the one shown here and will reveal a coloured line if the drugs are positive for fentanyl. (Courtesy Mark Lysyshyn, Vancouver Coastal Health)
"We've heard from clients that they want to know what's in their drugs. With the number of overdoses rising, it's critical to empower people to learn about their risk of being exposed to this toxic substance."
"We're hoping this will encourage them to use our harm reduction services like take-home naloxone kits, consider undergoing addiction treatment and take precautions like decreasing their dose or not using alone."
Dr. Mark Lysyshyn, Vancouver Coastal Health
"It's a sociological phenomena." There's the contention that it's not a drug, just a tablet."
"These tablets mimic the appearance of the legal product. It started as a marketing tool. We have seen a lot of drugs that were pressed with a brand name and logo. But we are also seeing a new generation of drug consumers who have a large appetite for drugs in tablet form. There's the feeling that you're not a drug user because socially it's OK to take medication. I was talking to some kids near Quebec City and they were telling me it's OK to take tablets, because it's not smoking or injecting something."
"There used to be a point of human contact at every level of a [drug] transaction. The connection doesn't exist anymore. Now, chemicals are being produced by people with chemical know-how for anyone who wants them, anywhere in the world. This is large-scale and detached. We've seen an organization sell 5,000 to 10,000 packages a week. They are selling it with no remorse."
Sgt. Luc Chicoine, national drug program coordinator, RCMP
Phoro: Travis Lupik, Last June protesters marched through Vancouver's Downtown Eastside with a coffin, to bring attention to fentanyl-overdose deaths

Throughout Canada, community organizers and aid groups are attempting through all manner of creative means to help 'do something' positive about the fentanyl crisis that has hit communities and led to the deaths of so many people of all ages, from teens experimenting to hard-core drug users and potentially, patients suffering pain for whom doctors prescribe opioids as pain-relievers, who end up possessing drugs from unauthorized sources which have adulterated them for higher profit and the filler just happens to be deadly fentanyl.

A new program has been launched by the AIDS Committee of Ottawa, offering urine test strips whose purpose is to chemically interpret what's in the chemical mixture that people may have unknowingly used; whether the powerful opioid fentanyl has been used as a 'filler'. ACO has named their project "Where's the Fent?" A free-of-charge, completely anonymous method for concerned individuals to ascertain whether they have been exposed to this killer drug. At the same time ACO is hoping through this process to be able to gather useful statistics from anyone willing to complete a short questionnaire.

Ottawa police have discovered that fentanyl has been used to lace street drugs, from heroin to cocaine in pharmaceutical knock-offs like counterfeit Percocets. The ACO office makes the test strips along with a urine cup available so that users can choose to take the test discreetly right there at their office, or take it home with them, where results are revealed mere minutes once the strip is dipped in urine. The chemical formula of the strip is geared exclusively to the detection of fentanyl and its analogues.

Negative tests do not mean that exposure to another opioid or adulterant is also negative. The presence of the even deadlier high-strength carfentanil, or U-4770, for example is not picked up by the test. Ottawa Public Health and city police responded to a series of local overdoses by working as a team to warn the public about counterfeit pills appearing identical to prescription opioids like OxyContin and Percocet, but containing fentanyl, 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Insite is one of only two legal supervised injection sites in the country, both of which are in Vancouver. The publicly-funded health centre is now offering users tests to determine if their drugs are laced with fentanyl. (Radio-Canada)
Seized drugs have been sent to Health Canada laboratories where they are identified as containing fentanyl, though appearing to present as cocaine or heroin. The same urine test strips have been used in other jurisdictions. Vancouver's Insite, the first supervised injection site in North America, used the urine strips for drug testing directly last year. Their finding was that 90 percent of tests in a single month last summer tested positive for fentanyl.

There has also been an eightfold rise in the number of times nurses have used naloxone to counter overdoses, in the first six months of 2016.

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