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

Report of dead body in Manning Park actually headless sex doll

This discovery, made at Manning Park on July 10, led police to uncovering two other sex mannequins

They’re coming!

Communities in Bloom judges return to see if Hope has what it takes for another 5 Blossom year

Chilliwack lagging real estate sales mirrors provincial trend

Forecast for 2019 is a drop from 2018 but a bounce back predicted for 2020

Young musicians get chance to win opening act spot at Chilliwack Fair

Three finalists will vie for top spot at the Fair’s Saturday night show

Hometown girl returns to Hope as doctor-for-hire

Growing up locally, naturopath Sarah Sjovold is back and wants to help build a healthier community

VIDEO: B.C. MLA Michelle Stilwell takes first steps in nearly 30 years

‘It actually felt like walking. It’s been 27 years… but it felt realistic to me’

Grand Forks fire chief found to have bullied, harassed volunteer firefighter: report

WorkSafeBC, third-party human resources investigation looking into allegations complete

Dog recovering after being drenched in hot coffee, B.C. man charged

Man was taken into custody, charged, and released pending a court date

Taekwondo instructor, 21, identified as B.C. bat rabies victim

Nick Major, 21, an instructor at Cascadia Martial Arts in Parksville

Science expedition to Canada’s largest underwater volcano departs Vancouver Island

Crews prepared for a two-week research mission to the Explorer Seamount

B.C. shipyard to get one-third of $1.5 billion frigate-repair contract

The federal government has promised to invest $7.5 billion to maintain the 12 frigates

Worried about bats? Here’s what to do if you come across one in B.C.

Bat expert with the BC Community Bat Program urges caution around the small creatures

B.C. on right road with tougher ride-hailing driver rules, says expert

The provincial government is holding firm that ride-hailing drivers have a Class 4 licence

B.C. Ferries cancels two sailings Monday due to mechanical issues

Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay run affected in order to repair Queen of New Westminster

Most Read