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

Over-budget bids cause delay of four Surrey school projects

Two projects have gone back out to tender, two awaiting ‘revised budget approval’ from Ministry of Education

Fees ensure patients have access to parking at SMH, FHA says

Fraser Health Authority hasn’t heard yet from city hall about pay parking at Surrey hospital

Free hospital parking a non-starter in White Rock

City considering task force to look at parking generally – Walker

Surrey memories: How the ‘IGUISBCSIR’ Facebook page became a hub for anecdotal history

Former Whalley resident Wes Mussato launched the group in 2011, 11 years after he’d moved to Ontario

VIDEO: B.C. legislature clerk, sergeant at arms suspended for criminal investigation

Clerk of the House Craig James, Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz on administrative leave

Former NHL player and coach Dan Maloney dies at 68

Maloney coached the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets

Ex-MSU president charged with lying to police about Nassar

Lou Anna Simon was charged Tuesday with lying to police during an investigation

Police aim to prevent retaliation after Hells Angel found dead under B.C. bridge

IHIT confirms Chad Wilson, 43, was the victim of a ‘targeted’ homicide

Otter makes a snack out of koi fish in Vancouver Chinese garden

Staff say the otter has eaten at least five fish

Police looking into two more incidents at private Toronto all-boys’ school

Police and the school have said two of the prior incidents involved an alleged sexual assault

B.C. lumber mills struggle with shortage of logs, price slump

Signs of recovery after U.S. market swings, industry executive says

25% of Canadians still won’t say they use pot, survey says

Statistics Canada poll says Canadians on average were 18.9 years old when they first tried pot.

Canucks’ 50/50 jackpot expected to surpass $1 million

The guaranteed prize for one lucky winner will be $500,000 minimum when Vancouver hosts LA Nov 27

Most Read