Delaware Division of Public Health Launches New Fentanyl Test Strip Distribution pink

DPH is now including fentanyl test strips in their Narcan overdose-reversal kits. Fentanyl is often mixed into illicit drugs and is a leading cause of unintentional overdose deaths in Delaware.

The Delaware Division of Public Health’s (DPH) Office of Health Crisis Response (OHCR) announced this week that it will begin including fentanyl test strips in Narcan kits it distributes to the public. The effort is part of a harm-reduction strategy aimed at preventing accidental overdoses due to fentanyl consumption.

Fentanyl is now the leading cause of drug overdose deaths in Delaware, found in more than 80 percent of fatal overdoses. According to Division of Forensic Science (DFS) data, there were 515 overdose deaths in Delaware in 2021, an increase of 15 percent from 2020. Fentanyl was found in 83 percent of those deaths.

Individuals can test marijuana, cocaine, meth, ecstasy and other substances for the presence of fentanyl. The test strips are considered highly sensitive and will detect fentanyl down to 0.1 mcg/ml. Most overdoses are unintentional, and individuals using may not realize the strength of the drug they are using or that it contains fentanyl, officials said. Fentanyl is unable to be detected by sight, taste, smell or touch.

“Including fentanyl test strips in Narcan kits is part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce overdose deaths in the state,” said DPH Interim Director Dr. Rick Hong. “The test strips are a preventive measure. After a test strip detects fentanyl, an individual can choose not to use the drug based on the risk. However, if they choose to use, they can implement alternative harm-reduction strategies, like going slow, not using as much, or/and not using alone.

“Having Narcan in the same kit empowers family, friends and neighbors to act in the event of an overdose. Those living with substance-use disorder should designate someone trained in using Narcan to check on them.

“We will continue to discourage drug use and encourage people to seek treatment, but for persons with substance-use disorder, we are using a compassionate approach to help raise awareness and empower friends and family to act in an emergency situation,” Hong said.

In Delaware, testing strips were considered paraphernalia unless used for clinical purposes until June 3, 2021, when Gov. John Carney signed Senate Bill 76, which allows for distribution of fentanyl test strips to be used by lay individuals and organizations. Just prior to that, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention announced, in April 2021, that they would permit state purchases of fentanyl test strips with Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) funding for the purpose of distributing to the public. OD2A supports jurisdictions in collecting high quality, comprehensive and timely data on nonfatal and fatal overdoses and in using those data to inform prevention and response efforts. DPH is one of 66 jurisdictions that joined the OD2A cooperative agreement that focuses on surveillance and prevention strategies.

Fentanyl test strips are legal in Delaware, though laws may vary in other states. DPH also distributes 10-pack fentanyl test strip kits through a free mail-order program. Details can be found at helpisherede.com/understanding-addiction/what-is-fentanyl.

To further enhance overdose prevention and education efforts, overdose response training is being recommended for anyone who has a prescription opioid or knows of someone who has or is using illicit drugs. After the quick training, the individual will receive the overdose reversal medication Narcan. For community training offerings and information on where to get free Narcan, go to https://www.helpisherede.com/overdose-prevention.

Those who are themselves or who have a loved one who is struggling with addiction in Delaware can call DHSS’s 24/7 Crisis Hotline to be connected to treatment and recovery options. In Sussex County, call 1-800-345-6785. For free 24/7 counseling, coaching and support, as well as links to mental health, addiction and crisis services, call the Delaware Hope Line at 1-833-9-HOPEDE. To search online for treatment and recovery services in Delaware or nearby states, visit HelpIsHereDE.com.