GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – The Centers for Disease Control announced Wednesday that Overdose Prevention Programs can now use federal money to buy rapid fentanyl testing strips. It’s the latest effort to curb the spike in drug overdose deaths.
The test strips can be used to see if drugs have been mixed or cut with fentanyl. The goal is to provide drug users more information, so that they can reduce the chances of overdosing on the drug.
The Greenville County Coroner’s office typically sees about 150 to 180 overdose deaths per year.
“But what we’re finding now is more times than not, if we have a drug overdose in Greenville County that is from illicit drugs, it’s going to have fentanyl as a component,” according to Senior Deputy Coroner Kent Dill.
He said that synthetic opioid fentanyl suppresses the respiratory system, and that it’s extremely potent, addicting, and deadly.
“Anyone who tries it will likely become addicted very, very quickly,” Coroner Dill said. “I’m talking about very, very quickly. And once they are, then it’s an uphill battle to successfully break that addiction.”
That’s why the CDC is working to curb the spike in drug overdose deaths by allowing Overdose Response Programs that are funded federally, to buy fentanyl test strips for those who need them.
According to the CDC, 88-thousand drug overdoses happened across the U.S. in the 12 months leading up to August of 2020. That is the highest number of overdoses ever recorded in a 12 month period.
“We’ve been trying to arrest our way out of this for over 100 years, that’s clearly not working,” Program Director for Challenges Inc., Marc Burrows said. “We’re dealing with a health problem, so it’s not something you can’t just arrest people for. “
Challenges Inc. has syringe programs, focuses on harm reduction and overdose prevention methods.
Burrows said people ask for fentanyl test strips every day.
“What’s really cool about that is you get to educate the drug user and kind’ve put them in the driver’s seat,” Burrows said. “So they’re able to test their substance, they’re looking out for themselves.”
He said it’s a powerful method to allow the user to make informed decisions about what they’re putting into their bodies. Burrow argues, however, more needs to be done.
“We really need to work to expand access to this so that we are not the only ones giving these things out in South Carolina” said Burrows.
Because the more access, the less likely the chances people are going to overdose.