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

Newly elected Hope politicians took part in the Local Government Leadership Academy

The three-day event is aimed at helping new mayors and councillors navigate municipal politics

No records were beat, but Hope’s February temperatures aren’t average

Normally around 3C, the sub-zero temperatures made for both good and bad in the Fraser Valley

New Chilliwack YMCA was ‘worth the wait’ say visitors

Family Day will mark officially opening for new building, after sneak peek tours on Saturday

Opioid overdoses killing three people a month in Chilliwack

35 deaths in 2018 locally compare to 23 in 2017, 13 in 2016 up from about five per year before that

‘Just like Iron Man’: Calgary surgeon undergoes experimental spinal surgery

Dr. Richi Gill was in a freak accident on a boogie board during a family vacation in Hawaii

Deported B.C. man who came to Canada as a baby granted chance at return

Lee Van Heest was deported to the Netherlands in 2017

Homicide police investigate assault turned deadly in Surrey

60-year-old man died at hospital after assault

A Mother’s Wish: Ryan Shtuka’s mother wants her son to be ‘forever known’

‍‍‍‍‍“Let me tell you a story …. it all began with a boy named Ryan”

Sex abuse survivors to meet with Vatican summit organizers

Pope Francis has urged participants to meet with abuse victims before they came to Rome

Ex-FBI official: ‘Crime may have been committed’ by Trump

Andrew McCabe said FBI had good reason to open a counterintelligence investigation into whether Trump was in league with Russia

B.C. athlete takes home gold in freestyle aerials at Canada Games

Brayden Kuroda won the event with a combined score of 121.65.

Most Read