Addiction & Overdose

A Statewide Pilot Fentanyl Test Strip Program Shows Results

September 29, 2022

Delaware ranks 2nd in drug overdose mortality rates, which largely involve illicitly manufactured fentanyl. Fentanyl test strips allow people who use drugs to quickly check their drugs for fentanyl before use to promote community awareness.  

With funding from the Initiative, Assistant Professor Ju Park provided technical guidance to the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, and Brandywine Counseling & Community Services in Delaware as they began a pilot fentanyl test strip program to see whether the distribution and use of fentanyl test strips contribute to harm reduction behaviors with people who inject drugs. 

The pilot program was launched in November 2018 and is ongoing. By June 2019, the syringe services program distributed more than 2,000 fentanyl test strips and increased awareness around the dangers of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues such as carfentail. 

To evaluate the program, they surveyed 100 people who normally inject drugs. The data provided insight into the utility of the fentanyl test strip program, the health needs of people who inject drugs in Delaware, client satisfaction with the syringe services program, and whether the FTS program scale-up is feasible.  

Key findings from the evaluation include:  

  1. Of those who received the strips, 47% adopted harm reduction behaviors such as using less than intended or doing a tester shot as a result of seeing a positive result, to reduce their chances of overdosing;  
  2. Awareness of fentanyl was high. However, clients were less familiar with fentanyl analogues such as carfentail;  
  3. The majority (80%) wanted the fentanyl test strip program to continue;  
  4. Almost a third of those surveyed use drugs alone i.e., without a bystander who could administer naloxone in case of an overdose;  
  5. Virtually all respondents (94%) were very satisfied with the syringe services program!  

The study results were published in the The International Journal of Drug Policy in 2021. 

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