Drug checking for fentanyl works with a test strip. A small amount of the substance being tested is mixed with water by a staff member, and a positive or negative result is revealed in minutes. (Fraser Health photo)

Drug-checking started as pilot in four B.C. communities to test for fentanyl

Substance is mixed with water on test strip, and result is revealed in minutes

A new drug-checking service testing for fentanyl is being offered in four B.C. communities as a pilot project from Fraser Health to see if it can prevent fatal drug overdoses.

The target is the “hidden” population that tends to use illicit drugs at home — often alone and in secret because of the stigmatization associated with addiction.

“Of the people who are dying of overdoses, we found that many are doing so in private residences,” said Dr. Aamir Bharmal, medical health officer for Fraser Health.

They figure that total could be as high as 70 per cent of substance users.

“We are looking at how we can change our strategies to reach them,” Dr. Bharmal said.

The four communities where the pilot is underway include New Westminster, Surrey, Maple Ridge and Chilliwack.

The way it works is with a test strip. A small amount of the drug being tested is mixed with water, and a positive or negative result for fentanyl is revealed in minutes. An on-site staff member provides the results and any interpretation, safer use recommendations and sometimes a referral to other support services.

Some people consider this type of service “enabling” but there is another way to look at it.

“We are not encouraging people to do drugs,” Dr. Bharmal countered. “It is about providing information to help people make healthier choices. We recognize that there are safer ways to do things.”

Like other harm reduction services, drug-checking is a prevention tool in the Fraser Health arsenal to combat the overdose crisis. It started as a way to monitor the presence of fentanyl in supervised consumption sites, and this pilot expansion is to compare the locations, and see if they are able to reach the “hidden” population using in private homes.

The BTNX Fentanyl Test Strips only indicate a positive or negative result for the presence of fentanyl.

“That is one of the limitations,” Dr. Bharmal said.

They do not show how much fentanyl is in the sample, or if there are other substances, analogues or adulterants present.

Some who find out that their drugs are in fact contaminated will still attempt to use, but with a smaller dose. Others will throw it out to be on the safe side, the doctor said.

“We will be evaluating what they do once they find out,” he said.

The pilot project runs until Sept. 30, at which point Fraser Health will consider the results.

See more details about the program.


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Highest earning staff at Fraser-Cascade School District made public

Also board looks into seat belts on school buses, Marv Cope gets road in his memory

Oscar-winning producer J. Miles Dale on filming horror-thriller in Hope

In an exclusive interview, Dale explains why the town plays a large role in Antlers

Tarl rocks Silver Chalice Saturday

After spending summers in Hope visiting his grandmother, musician Tarl returns to… Continue reading

WATCH: Brother of missing Hope woman makes emotional appeal for more media attention

Next search for Shawnee Inyallie Nov. 18 along Highway 1 towards Boston Bar

Gas price drop expected to hit Fraser Valley today

Analyst says to take advantage, warns slight increase may follow

REPLAY: B.C’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

Privacy concerns over credit card use for legal online pot purchases

Worries follow privacy breaches at some Canadian cannabis retailers

Vancouver Police look for man in connection to ‘sexually motivated’ assault

Woman says man followed her into an apartment building

NEB approves operating pressure increase to repaired Enbridge pipeline

The pipeline burst outside of Prince George on Oct. 9, now operating at 85 per cent

B.C. VIEWS: Setting speed limits in a post-fact political environment

Media prefer ‘speed kills’ narrative, even when it fails to appear

Controversy erupts over Japanese flag in B.C. classroom

Online petition demanding removal has collected more than 5,700 signatures

Death toll rises to 76 in California fire with winds ahead

Nearly 1,300 people remain unaccounted for more than a week after the fire began

Trump says report on Khashoggi death expected in a few days

Jamal Khashoggi was a columnist for The Washington Post who was slain Oct. 2 inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul

Most Read