Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jen Smith and Pennsylvania Acting Secretary of Health and General Practitioner Dr. Denise Johnson today commended Governor Tom Wolf’s continued commitment to addressing the overdose crisis by Enact a law that will prevent opioid overdose. deceased. this measure (House Bill 1393) amends the Controlled Substances, Drugs, Devices, and Cosmetics Act of 1972 to no longer define fentanyl test strips as drug paraphernalia.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health78% of the 5,343 overdose deaths statewide in 2021 involved fentanyl.
“Fentanyl is undetectable through sight, taste and smell. Unless a drug is tested with a fentanyl test strip, it is almost impossible for a person to know if it has been mixed with fentanyl,” Secretary Smith said. “We continue to encourage all Pennsylvanians to equip themselves with the life-saving drug naloxone, and now with the legalization of fentanyl test strips, people have an additional tool to combat the overdose crisis. This legalization is a great victory in the field of harm reduction, as it allows people to be more informed given the large amount of fentanyl in our drug supply: this little strip of paper could save their lives.”
FTS are a low-cost method to help prevent drug overdoses and reduce harm. These small strips of paper can detect the presence of fentanyl in all different types of drugs (cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, etc.) and forms of drugs (pills, powders, and injectables), providing people who use drugs and communities with Important information about fentanyl in the illicit drug supply.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid, almost 100 times more powerful than morphine. In the medical setting, fentanyl can be used to treat patients with chronic pain, such as pain associated with advanced cancer or severe pain after surgery. Illicit fentanyl, on the other hand, is primarily manufactured outside the United States, illegally brought into the United States, and distributed and sold on the illegal drug market. It is sold as powders, nasal sprays, and pills that look like prescription opioids. Fentanyl is mixed with other illicit drugs, mainly heroin, to increase its potency. Mixing fentanyl with other drugs increases the chance that its use will lead to a fatal overdose.
“Legalizing fentanyl test strips will certainly help save the lives of Pennsylvanians by reducing drug overdoses,” said Dr. Johnson. “Many people take the deadly drug without knowing it. Now, they can use test strips to identify the presence of fentanyl, so they don’t accidentally expose themselves to the drug.”
Harm reduction is a proven public health approach that minimizes the negative consequences of drug use, saves lives, improves health outcomes, and strengthens families and communities. This approach recognizes that there will always be people who use and abuse legal and illegal drugs, and addresses the conditions of their use. Other harm reduction tools include syringe service programs, which the Wolf Administration also strongly believes the General Assembly should legalize.
There are numerous ways Pennsylvanians can access life-saving naloxone. dr johnson signed standing orders allowing members of the general public and first responders to obtain naloxone at their local pharmacy and through a partnership with Point Pittsburgh and NEXT Distro, Pennsylvania supports a state naloxone by mail program for people to order medicines for personal use.
To learn more about the Wolf Administration’s efforts to combat the disease of addiction, visit pa.gov/opioids.
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