Interior Health is offering take-home drug checking kits in a new collaborative research project, with Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), aiming to reduce the risk of fentanyl overdoses.
“We know using drugs alone presents a significant risk amidst a toxic, unpredictable and illegal drug supply that is taking three to four lives every single day,” Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy said.
Fentanyl is responsible for 87 per cent of drug overdose deaths in B.C. last year, but this research project looks to arm substance users with the tools to protect themselves from becoming another statistic.
VCH’s medical health officer Dr. Mark Lysyshyn said the take-home kits may be useful in reducing possible overdoses.
“We’re hoping that giving people the opportunity to check their drugs for fentanyl on their own could help them make safer choices and save lives,” he said, noting most individuals die from overdose when they use alone.
The take-home kits, which are available in Kelowna, Kamloops, Vernon, Penticton, Cranbrook, Merritt and Nelson contain five free test strips to identify traces of the toxin in other substances.
A small amount of the drug is mixed with a few drops of water to create a solution that the test strip is then dipped in and within seconds, a positive or negative for fentanyl is revealed. The test strips were originally used to test urine for the presence of fentanyl, but in attempt to stay ahead of the overdose crisis, VCH began to use the strips to test illicit drugs directly.
VCH reports it has an average of 500 voluntary drug checks each month at its overdose prevention and supervised consumption sites, but take-home kits will allow individuals who don’t use those facilities to make more informed decisions, Dr. Lysyshyn said.
The research study will compare positive results of take-home tests and drug checking services already offered at various community sites using trained technicians to determine if take-home drug checking kits can effectively be used outside of a health-care facility without staff supervision.
Reporter, Kelowna Capital News
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