What You Can Do to Test for Fentanyl

Key points

  • Fentanyl test strips (FTS) are small strips of paper that can detect the presence of fentanyl in different kinds of drugs and drug forms (pills, powder, and injectables).
  • FTS can inform people about the presence of fentanyl so they can take steps to reduce their risk of overdose.
Test for fentanyl

Fentanyl test strips: a harm reduction strategy

Fentanyl test strips (FTS) are a low-cost harm reduction tool that can be used to prevent overdoses in combination with other strategies. FTS are small strips of paper that can detect the presence of fentanyl in different kinds of drugs (cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, etc.) and drug forms (pills, powder, and injectables).1

FTS provide people who use drugs and communities with important information about fentanyl in the illegal drug supply so they can take steps to reduce risk of overdose.2 Look for organizations in your city or state that distribute FTS, keep them on you, and use them!

While FTS are an important harm reduction tool, they may not work in all cases. For example, FTS don't differentiate between fentanyl and fentanyl analogs and may not identify the presence of some analogs (e.g., alfentanil or carfentanil), Also, FTS may not work as well in the presence of large amounts of methamphetamine, MDMA, or diphenhydramine. Further, they can't tell you how much fentanyl is in a sample, just if the sample contains fentanyl.3

Two pressed pills with tiny specks to suggest the presence of fentanyl on a black background with white text that reads: The chocolate chip cookie effect. One portion of a drug may contain fentanyl, while another portion may not.
Drugs may contain deadly levels of fentanyl, and you wouldn't be able to see it, taste it, or smell it. It is not possible to tell if drugs have been mixed with fentanyl unless they are tested.

Lower the risk of overdose

In addition to using fentanyl test strips to know if fentanyl is in your drugs, there are other ways to lower your risk of overdose4. You can take steps to keep yourself and others safe:

  • Keep naloxone readily available on you and at home. Naloxone is available in all 50 states. If you have been prescribed high-dose opioids, talk to your doctor about co-prescribing naloxone. You can also get naloxone at your local pharmacy, without a prescription or from community-based naloxone programs and most syringe services programs.
  • Avoid mixing drugs. Mixing multiple stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine, depressants like opioids and alcohol, or a combination of both can cause harm and potentially death.5
  • Don't rely on a previous source or experience. Knowing where your drugs come from doesn't mean they're safe. And even if you have used drugs before, your body could react differently every time.
  • Never use drugs alone. Make sure the people around you are aware when you have taken drugs in case they need to give you naloxone or call for emergency assistance.
  • Ask for help if you're ready to get treatment for your addiction. Recovery from substance use disorders is possible—it's okay to ask for help. You can find evidence-based treatment and service options near you by visiting findtreatment.gov or by calling the 24/7, National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357).

CDC supports state and community-level FTS efforts

In April 2021, CDC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced federal6 funding could be used to purchase FTS. This purchase approval applies to all federal grant programs, like CDC's multiyear Overdose Data to Action cooperative agreement, if the purchase of FTS is consistent with the purpose of the program. Allowing federal grant programs to purchase FTS helps create opportunities for people who use drugs to interact with community-based organizations who may also offer mental health and behavioral services a person needs.

Steps to take

Below are steps to test your drugs for fentanyl using FTS7. Depending on the types of drugs you're testing, the steps may be slightly different:

  1. Put a small amount (at least 10mg) of your drugs aside in a clean, dry container.
  2. Add water to the container and mix together. For most drugs, you need ½ teaspoon of water. If you are testing methamphetamines, MDMA, or ecstasy, use 1 full teaspoon for every 10 mg of crystal or powder you are testing.4
  3. Place the wavy end of the test strip down in the water and let it absorb for about 15 seconds.
  4. Take the strip out of the water and place it on a flat surface for 2 to 5 minutes.
  5. Read results.
Two fentanyl test strips, one showing a red line to indicate a positive result and one showing two red lines to indicate a negative result.
Using fentanyl test strips can help you lower your risk of overdose.
Positive results
  • A single pink line on the left-hand side indicates that fentanyl or a fentanyl analog has been detected in your drugs.
  • If you receive a positive result, it is much safer to discard the batch. Using it could kill you. Illegally made fentanyl is extremely potent and can be deadly.
Negative results
  • Two pink lines indicate that fentanyl or a fentanyl analog has not been detected in your drugs.
  • Remember that no test is 100% accurate and your drugs may still contain fentanyl or fentanyl analogs even if you receive a negative result.
  • You should still take caution as FTS might not detect more potent fentanyl-like drugs, like carfentanil, and fentanyl might not be everywhere in your drugs and your test might miss it.
Invalid results
  • A single pink line on the right-hand side or no lines at all, indicates an invalid test.
  • If you get an invalid result, test your drugs again using a new strip.


  1. https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/forefront.20210601.974263/
  2. Wu, K.C., Sigler, A., Mace, S., Manecke, M.J. National Council for Mental Wellbeing. 2023. Enhancing Harm Reduction Services in Health Departments: Fentanyl Test Strips and Other Drug Checking Equipment.
  3. Halifax, J.C., Lim, L., Ciccarone, D., Lynch, K.L. Testing the test strips: laboratory performance of fentanyl test strips. Harm Reduction Journal. 2024:21:14.
  4. How to Test Your Drugs Using Fentanyl Test Strips
  5. Polysubstance Use Facts
  6. Federal Grantees May Now Use Funds to Purchase Fentanyl Test Strips | SAMHSA
  7. Fact Sheet: Fentanyl Testing to Prevent Overdose – Information for People Who Use Drugs and Healthcare Providers