Fentanyl Test Strips: A Harm Reduction Strategy
What are fentanyl test strips?
Fentanyl test strips (FTS) are a low-cost method of helping prevent drug overdoses and reducing harm. FTS are small strips of paper that can detect the presence of fentanyl in all 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 illicit 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!
How to use fentanyl test strips
Below are steps3 to test your drugs for fentanyl using FTS. Depending on the types of drugs you’re testing, the steps may be slightly different:
- Step 1: Put a small amount (at least 10mg) of your drugs aside in a clean, dry container.
- Step 2: Add water to the container and mix together.
- Please note: For most drugs, you need ½ teaspoon of water. If you are testing methamphetamines, use1 full teaspoon.4
- Step 3: Place the wavy end of the test strip down in the water and let it absorb for about 15 seconds.
- Step 4: Take the strip out of the water and place it on a flat surface for 2 to 5 minutes.
Step 5: Read results.
- 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. Illicitly manufactured 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.
Lower your risk of overdose
In addition to using fentanyl test strips to know if fentanyl is in your drugs, there are other ways5 to lower your risk of overdose. You can take steps to keep yourself and others safe:
- Keep naloxone readily available on you and at home. Talk with your healthcare provider or pharmacist about being prescribed naloxone (e.g., Narcan) if you or someone you know is at risk for an overdose. You can also check with your local health department or community-based organization to see if they distribute naloxone at no cost.
- 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.6
- 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) announced7 federal 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.
- Fact Sheet: Fentanyl Testing to Prevent Overdose – Information for People Who Use Drugs and Healthcare Providers